Huston Street signed a two-year, $14 million contract extension today, the latest closer deal that will be dwarfed by the four-year, $50 million contract that the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to this season. We'll never know how the market would have ended up valuing Papelbon had the Phillies been less aggressive in their pursuit of him, but it is interesting to note that the two teams who committed more than two years to a closer this offseason are two of the more disappointing teams in the majors.
The Marlins have already given up on 2012, and they are in that position thanks in part to the struggles of Heath Bell, who has a 5.75 ERA and six blown saves in 25 opportunities after signing a three-year, $27 million deal over the offseason. Papelbon, conversely, has been the pitcher the Phillies expected, converting 22-of-25 save opportunities with a 3.29 ERA in 41 innings. Yet even with the production they expected out of their closer, the Phillies are 11 games under .500 and, for all intents and purposes, out of the National League playoff picture. Which suggests that there might have been a wiser way to spend the money they dedicated to Papelbon. An elite closer is a luxury, not a necessity. If you already have a nice house and have money left over, go ahead and add the swimming pool. But if you have water pouring into the attic, then you are probably better off spending the 10 grand on a new roof.
Just like there are other ways to cool off, there are other ways to handle the ninth inning then to pay a guy $12.5 million a year over four years to handle it. Street has had significant injury problems over the last few seasons, missing 28 games this season with a right latissimus dorsi strain and 29 in 2011 with groin and arm injuries, and the first three months of 2010 with right shoulder inflammation. When healthy, he has been very good: a 3.12 ERA, 88 percent save rate, and 139 strikeouts against 28 walks in 135 1/3 innings since the start of 2010. Papelbon's numbers during that same stretch: 3.39 ERA, 86.5 percent save rate, 214 strikeouts, 47 walks in 172 1/3 innings.
Is the extra $5.5 million a year and two extra years worth the better health history and higher workload of Papelbon?