Boston Red Sox: 5 Closers Who Could Replace Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon has been a rock at the end of games for the Red Sox since he took over closing responsibilities in 2006. He has saved at least 30 games in each of the past six seasons.
However, shaky performances over the last two seasons have led some people to believe that it is time for a change in Boston.
If Papelbon were to leave, the Red Sox would be facing a huge hole in the bullpen. Here's a look at some potential replacements.
Daniel Bard has been dubbed as the future successor for Papelbon since his sizzling 100 mph fastball reached Fenway Park in 2009.
Many believe he has the demeanor and "stuff" to be the closer of the future, but others say he still may be too young.
His struggles over the past month of the 2011 season has also made some question if he is closer material, making it possible that the Red Sox will look outside the organization for their future closer.
Bard is currently cheap and has been with the Sox for three seasons, making him the favorite to be the replacement for Papelbon.
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Heath Bell has been an elite closer with San Diego for the past three seasons. He is considered the best relief free agent this offseason and will almost certainly have a high price tag.
Bell was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, but no deal was reached.
Many question if Bell would leave the West Coast, but if a team blows him away with an offer, he may be willing to move his talents eastward.
If the Red Sox lose Papelbon, they may turn to a proven, elite closer such as Bell to replace him. However, they just may not be willing to shell out the money to another high-priced pitcher.
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Jonathan Broxton is another hard-throwing closer with high potential.
His 2011 campaign was plagued by injury, hurting his stock in the free agent market. However, teams may be willing to sign him after seeing his potential in the 2009 season where he recorded 36 saves.
This could be a relatively cheap option for the Red Sox, who may be scared away from the high-priced free agent pitchers.
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Ryan Madson had a breakout year for the Phillies, who had the best regular season record in the majors in 2011.
Madson took over the closing duties for the oft-injured Brad Lidge full time in 2011 and proved his worth with 32 saves and 62 strikeouts.
The one thing that might turn teams away would be the compensation lost to Philadelphia for signing Madson. Madson is also a Scott Boras client, who the Red Sox have had difficulty with in the past.
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After a devastating injury in spring training in 2010, Joe Nathan never regained his dominant closer form in 2011, eventually giving way to Matt Capps.
Nathan was at the top of the closing game from 2004-09, never recording less than 36 saves.
The injury might turn away teams still doubtful if he can regain his dominant form. However, this could mean the Red Sox could get him at a bargain on the market.