While the re-signing of Mariano Rivera was relatively uneventful, there was an interesting twist. When news of the signing broke we learned that Rivera had other offers, and we later learned that one came from the Red Sox. The idea of a three-year, $51 million offer was shot down, but later word was that the Red Sox had offered two years and $30 million. Futhermore, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox were prepared to non-tender Jonathan Papelbon in the event that they landed Rivera. That left the Sox a little mess to clean.
A recent report from WEEI’s Rob Bradford attempts to walk back most of the story. It starts with the revelation that Mariano’s agent, Fernando Cuza, initiated contact with the Red Sox. When we first learned of the Red Sox offer it was assumed that they were the ones who contacted Rivera. Bradford’s scenario does make a bit of sense, though. What better way to attract the Yankees’ interest than by contacting the Red Sox?
The report also attempts to walk back the other part of the situation, i.e. Papelbon’s imminent non-tender. Bradford cites “separate sources,” and goes on to list the reasons why the Red Sox would never let Papelbon walk for nothing. If they offer him arbitration after the 2011 season, when he becomes a free agent, they can collect two compensatory draft picks if he signs elsewhere. Of course, that overlooks the possibility that Papelbon really is declining and that not only will he not be worth his salary in 2011, but that he won’t be worth the risk of an arbitration offer, thereby netting the Sox nothing if he leaves.
Still, it would represent a poor distribution of resources for the Red Sox to carry both Rivera at $15 million and Papelbon at $12 million. That’s more than the Rays will pay their entire pitching staff in 2011. The Red Sox can afford it, I suppose, but I doubt they’d do it. Plus, since the market for closers isn’t very strong, they’d have a hard time finding a taker for Papelbon at that salary. In the unthinkable event that Mo signed with Boston, I have to think that Boston would have cut ties with Papelbon. They can say, then, that they never intended to non-tender Papelbon, because they never really stood a chance to sign Mo.
There figured to be little drama in the Mariano negotiations, and as it concerned the Yankees there was not. Wanting to minimize risk, they wanted to sign him for only one year. He, wanting another two years before retirement, sought two years. His being Mariano Rivera, I’m sure the Yankees were prepared to go two years all along. It just took the Red Sox offer to prod them along. Might Rivera have contacted the Red Sox to get the process moving? Sure. Might the Red Sox have been willing to carry both Papelbon and Rivera? Maybe. But neither seems all that realistic. After the mess that Edes’s report created, I’m not surprised to see a contradictory one a few weeks later.