When the professor came in, before he did anything else, he walked to the blackboard and wrote "PAPELBON." He then proceeded to circle the name, and draw a line through it, like a no smoking sign gone awry.
The class discussed the bizzare failures of some elite closers during this postseason, and then I committed blasphemy. I said that I could see Papelbon being traded this offseason. Then, from behind me, I heard a male voice say (in the most depreciating and belittling tone of voice in the history of the world), "Why?" He said it like suggesting Papelbon could be traded was equivalent to insisting that the world was flat.
Well, here it is, skeptical student of politics - all of the reasons Papelbon is not safe:
1.) He goes year to year in arbitration, rather than taking the security of a long-term deal. Theo doesn't like to overpay, and Papelbon will want more money than the Sox will be willing to give him when he's up for Free Agency in 2011. If we trade him now, we'll get something significant in return, and keeping him on is prolonging the inevitable: the Red Sox will not pay through the nose to keep him in the eventual bidding war.
2.) He's a closer, which means he is, by definition, fragile. Mariano Rivera is an anomaly: most closers have an extremely short shelf life. Paps changed his mechanics this year in an effort to lengthen his career, but if you recall, the Sox wanted him to go back to starting in 2007 because they were worried about the longevity of his arm. Jonathan then decided (as is his right) that he wanted to remain a closer. The organization is acutely aware that an electric closer is a short-lived commodity, and Theo is the king of buying low and selling high. Despite his meltdown in Game 3, Papelbon's value is extremely high right now.
3.) He seems to LIVE with his foot in his mouth. The Red Sox value talented players who don't cause too much drama, which makes sense, especially in a baseball hungry place like Boston, where everything is magnified tenfold. Papelbon can't seem to keep his mouth shut, whether he's calling Manny a "cancer in the clubhouse," talking about the money he deserves, saying he'd like to play for other teams, or a certain incident before last years All-Star Game...
4.) The Red Sox have a possible closer waiting in the wings. Daniel Bard has a little more development to go through, but he proved he could be cool under pressure in that fateful Game 3. Bard came in with the bases loaded and none out, gave up just one run (on a double play ball), and escaped the inning (he also makes a sexy lion). Papelbon came in in the ninth (after struggling in the last of the eighth, and caved... which, for him, is an anomaly, but the point was made. Bard has the potential to be a closer, and it wouldn't shock me if Theo gave him that role next year, with Oki as a contingency plan for the inevitable growing pains.
(RAWRRR.... [via @flaxenmanes])
5.) Papelbon opens a lot of otherwise locked doors when it comes to trade possibilities. Despite how frequently the term "untouchable" gets thrown around, there are few players that are actually off-limits for the right package. For instance, Felix Hernadez would drive a hard bargain, but for Paps and Buch (and some other minor prospects), it might get done. If I'm Theo, I consider that. If Paps could get us Adrian Gonzales, or Prince Fielder, you look into that. Imagine Zach Greinke in Boston? I'm drooling just thinking about it.
(You just know he's thinking something like "Now everyone can SEE that I have sex with this woman... Look how MANLY I am!")
But the bottom line is this: it would not shock me in the slightest if Theo decided it was time to Ship Paps right out of Boston.