The guys on my morning show were having a vociferous argument about this today. Apparently the Red Sox, true to form, have dragged out contract negotiations with a key player, though they're saying that Jonathan Papelbon will get a new deal soon (the deadline is March 11). I have to say I really dislike this tendency with the Sox--since the Pedro days, following player contract negotiations with this team has frequently been an anxious experience.
According to the Herald:
The Sox are believed to be talking to Papelbon about a pay raise much more modest than the nearly 100 percent increase he is seeking. Papelbon made $425,500 last season. Based on Papelbon’s save totals of 35 and 37 during the past two seasons, the club is believed to be considering a raise of about $100,000. That is far below the $900,000 figure Papelbon told the Providence Journal he is looking for.
I understand the following: that this is a business; that emotions have no place in it; that the Red Sox can't go around doling out 100 percent raises to all its players just because we love them; that even David Ortiz was signed for a relative song the first time his contract was renewed, and as a veteran player, too.
And yes, everybody knows his rookie salary is a joke, but that's the way the system works. I'm also aware he'll be eligible for arbitration next year, and could stand to receive ten times even the amount that's too rich for the Red Sox blood right now. So eventually, he'll probably get his due anyway.
Still, I wonder--when they have a choice, why would the Red Sox quibble over paying him a tenth of what he's probably worth? $900,000 is absolute chump change for the best closer in the game and a linchpin of the pitching staff that just won us a World Series. More importantly, I personally can think of few things more devastating than seeing Jonathan Papelbon in anything other than a Red Sox uniform.
They have an opportunity to lock Jonathan in right now, and I believe they should do everything possible not to alienate one of their most important players, regardless of when he's eligible for free agency (2013) or his age. He's the best in the game at his position, and his age means he could be a player the Red Sox cultivate and develop as a long-term employee of the team, rather than thinking short-term, as they appear to be doing right now.
For a big-league franchise to be quibbling with a player like Jonathan over half a million dollars strikes me as something that could come back to bite them down the road, and in this case, I don't think it's worth the risk, given what they potentially stand to lose.