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Red Sox sign Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury, avoiding arbitration

01.18.11 at 2:02 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox agreed to deals with both closer Jonathan Papelbon and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. In so doing, they avoided going to arbitration with their only two arbitration-eligible players, thus keeping intact GM Theo Epstein‘s record of never having gone to an arbitration hearing — a contentious process that pits player against team — in his nine years as general manager.

Papelbon, who is arbitration eligible for the third time, will receive a $12 million salary for the 2011 season, while Ellsbury, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, agreed to a $2.4 million deal. Ellsbury would be eligible for $50,000 bonuses for 600 and 700 plate appearances.

Papelbon, who turned 30 in November, had his worst season in the major leagues in 2010, going 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA. He had 37 saves, but also blew a career-high eight saves, a mark that also was the highest such total in the American League. Even so, Papelbon’s career numbers (188 saves, 2.22 ERA, 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings) rank him among the best closers of all time among pitchers with his service time, thus leading to the significant raise over the $9.35 million he received in 2010. Only three relief pitchers in major league history have ever had deals with an average annual value of more than $12 million: Yankees great Mariano Rivera, who has signed two deals with an AAV of $15 million; Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who is entering the final year of a three-year, $37.5 million deal ($12.5 million AAV); and Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is entering the final season of a three-year, $37 million deal ($12.33 million AAV).

Ellsbury, whose season was effectively lost due to the rib fractures he suffered, hit .192 with a .241 OBP, .244 slugging percentage and .485 OPS in just 18 games in 2010. However, his career marks of .291/.344/.405/.749 with 136 stolen bases, put him in line for a significant raise over his 2010 salary of $496,500.

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (via twitter) was the first to report the agreements.

Read More: arbitration, Hot Stove, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon
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