Closer Exit? Red Sox Papelbon May Be Hinting at Testing the Market

Jon O'ConnorCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2011

Will he stay or Will he go? Jonathan Papelbon
Will he stay or Will he go? Jonathan Papelbon

Five days after the conclusion of the World Series, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon will be eligible for free agency. That was one of the bigger questions about next season for the Sox: what will Papelbon do? Well, in a recent interview there are hints he may be excited to test the waters. 

With Jonathan Papelbon being one of the veterans in this clubhouse, people look to him to be a leader. When all the issues came up after the season about the clubhouse not being together, pitchers drinking on their days off and things like that, many blame the leaders for not taking control. 

In a "contract year" for Pap, you don't expect things to happen the way they did. The problems in the clubhouse seems to have come as a shock to Jonathan, and for that reason, it could be a bad thing for the Red Sox in terms of his returning next year. 

In the interview, Papelbon mentions his shock over the departure of former manager Terry Francona.

The shocks just keep piling up for him. He talks about his daily routine, and how he never knew there were starting pitchers in the clubhouse drinking during games when they were not pitching.

Jonathan explains how a lot of the issues surprised the organization and before long they were 7-20 in September and watching baseball from their living rooms. 

These are all reasons that lead me to believe it wouldn't be a shock if we see the former All-Star closer move on next season. At some point in professional sports, you have to take it upon yourself to be a man, to be prepared everyday and go out and do your job professionally. Jonathan Papelbon has always done that, and you can see that in his eyes. 

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, now, to see Jonathan not only test the market, but test it very seriously. He may look for a place where he can be assured of clubhouse control, the right environment for him, a place where professionalism reigns supreme with no questions asked.

It will have to be a team that has money, somewhere with professional standards.... Let me see... Papelbon always has a neat haircut, he's clean-shaven...where do they have those types of rules? Wait a minute, isn't Mariano Rivera getting old?

I'm not saying Mo is going to be out by any means, nor am I saying the Yankees are going to replace him from outside the organization. But wouldn't it be interesting if Mo decides to retire—I mean he's already major league baseball's all-time leader in saves—and Papelbon is on the market? The Yankees are certainly professional, and Papelbon has that sort of demeanor that the Yankees look for. That would be a hated day in Beantown!

The point of the story wasn't to bring the Yankees into this, but more to bring to light the reality that Papelbon may be out next year. If Tito (Terry Francona) signs a deal to manage somewhere, that may be another place Papelbon may go. Only time will tell, but the confidence I once had in him returning is no more.