Jonathan Papelbon has agreed to a 4-year, $50M deal with the Phillies, pending a physical.
Papelbon's deal, if finalized, would be the largest free-agent contract in terms of total dollar value ever signed by a relief pitcher. His average annual salary of $12.5 million would be the third-highest, behind only two free-agent contracts Mariano Rivera signed with Yankees for $15 million per season.
This type of free-agent contract is nearly unprecedented for the Phillies. It is just the third time they have awarded a free agent contract of at least $50 million and only the fifth time they’ve given out a contract of at least four years to a free agent.
Jonathan Papelbon vs Ryan Madson
The Phillies were rumored to be nearing a free-agent deal with last year’s closer, Ryan Madson, but instead chose to spend their money on Papelbon.
Papelbon bested Madson in nearly every statistical category except ERA last year. Madson, by virtue of his better ERA, had more success with runners on base than Papelbon, stranding 80 percent of baserunners, compared to 70 percent for Papelbon.
Papelbon has found success in the ninth inning because of his ability to get opposite-handed batters out. Last year he held lefties to a .428 OPS, the best rate among right-handed pitchers (min. 75 PA) and nearly 75 points better than what Madson did against lefties last year.
Most Wins Above Replacement
Relief Pitchers, Since 2006
Papelbon, despite large swings in his ERA from a career-best 0.92 in 2006 to a career-worst 3.90 in 2010, has been one of the most consistent and prolific closers since his first full season in 2006.
The only other pitcher to have at least 30 saves in each season since 2006 is Rivera, and Papelbon is the only relief pitcher to record at least 75 strikeouts in each of the last six seasons.
While his 2.30 ERA over the last six seasons barely cracks the top 10 among relievers, his FIP of 2.45 (which measures what a player's ERA would be based on things he can control: strikeouts, walks, and homeruns) was the best among relievers during that span (min. 200 IP).