Many have predicted that, come the end of the 2010 baseball season, Jonathan Papelbon will no longer be a member of the Red Sox. And unless the Red Sox are willing to pay him a hefty sum, it seems that the two sides will spend yet another offseason at odds with one other.
The Red Sox closer has not yet spoken with the team about a long-term contract extension, according to ESPN.com, which means Papelbon is likely to be headed toward arbitration once again.
Last season, facing arbitration for the first time ever, Papelbon earned a hefty raise from $775,000 to $6.25 million, and he's ready for another increase in pay. After all, several MLB closers make upwards of $10 million, and if Papelbon is one of the best of the best, why shouldn't he be able to cash in, too?
"Heck yeah, as far as what me and my brain are thinking," Papelbon told ESPN.com in regards to whether he expects a raise next season, "but I haven't even sat down with my agents [Seth and Sam Levinson] yet. We don't even have a number in place. There haven't been any discussions between me and the Red Sox and my agents at all."
Last season, Papelbon pitched in 66 games and finished with 38 saves and a 1.85 ERA. The numbers are impressive, but many in Red Sox Nation expect that a younger, cheaper alternative — Daniel Bard — will soon usurp the closer's throne.
Papelbon and other arbitration-eligible players are permitted to file this week, and on Jan. 20, the teams and players will present salary numbers. The two sides will proceed to a hearing if a preliminary agreement cannot be reached.
Since GM Theo Epstein's reign began in 2002, no Red Sox players have had hearings.
Although other young Red Sox have been awarded long-term extensions recently — Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester, to name a few — Papelbon readily acknowledges that his high demands may stand in the way of an agreement, and he knows that Bard is breathing down his neck in pursuit of his job.
"The thing they'll probably pull is tell us, 'We've got an up-and-coming guy in [Daniel] Bard, this and that," Papelbon told the Web site. "That's fine with me. That's what they have to do in this cat-and-mouse game. But when you look at what I've done so far, you can't compare it to many other closers besides Mo [Rivera]."
Papelbon is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.