[A]ccording to major league general managers, [the Red Sox] went so far as to offer Mariano Rivera a three-year deal for $51 million, with the idea that if they landed the 41-year-old, Papelbon would be gone. Papelbon is in his final year of arbitration, and there's a chance his agents will ask for about $11.5 million. The Red Sox have never gone to arbitration with Theo Epstein as GM, therefore they'll likely settle at around $11 million ...Let me see if I follow this correctly. According to Cafardo, the Red Sox:
Papelbon and the Sox have long had an understanding that he will test the free agent market when eligible, and the Sox would only sign him long term if they received a team-friendly deal, as they did with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jon Lester.
Despite all the reports, the Red Sox never thought they would actually land Rivera, because of his loyalty to the Yankees. But ... the Red Sox were prepared to take Rivera ...
(a) are not all that keen on paying $11 million a year their 30-year-old closer, and will likely let him walk after this season due to his expected excessive salary demandsYes, that sounds exactly like the progressive, smart front office we have seen in action for close to a decade. (Although snatching Rivera away from the Yankees and leaving them with a gaping hole in their pen might have been worth the extra dough.)
(b) but they would sign their 30-year-old closer for (as an example) three years if it was a "team-friendly" deal similar to what some other Sox signed -- with average annual salaries in the range from $10-12 million (i.e., about $11 million)
(c) and they were "prepared" to pay $17 million a year for a 41-year closer*
* - Rivera is Rivera, of course, and shows no signs of declining. He posted two of the top three WHIPs of his 16-year career in the last three seasons; and five of his seven lowest WHIP seasons have come after he turned 35. And, while I fully acknowledge the huge difference in service time (Papelbon has pitched six seasons, an entire decade less than Rivera), Papelbon has a higher career ERA+ (209-205) and a roughly identical career WHIP (1.033 to Fruitbat's 1.003). We all know Papelbon blew 8 saves last year. Well, Rivera blew 9 in 1997 and 7 in 2001. Career save conversion rate: Rivera 89%, Papelbon 88%.