From Gordon Edes:
The Red Sox offered reliever Mariano Rivera a two-year, $30 million deal and were prepared to non-tender closer Jonathan Papelbon, according to a baseball source with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
Rivera turned down the Red Sox to return to the Yankees, who offered the same money as Boston. Rivera’s pending agreement with the Yankees was first reported by the New York Daily News.
The Red Sox on Thursday night tendered a contract to Papelbon, who was paid $9.35 million last season and is arbitration-eligible, which will drive his salary into eight figures. Papelbon is a year away from free agency.
My initial reaction to the news that the Red Sox had offered Mariano a contract was to be skeptical of their motives, particularly when we thought that offer was for 3 years and 51 million dollars. It did not seem like Theo Epstein to commit that much money and that many years to a 41 year old pitcher, and I suspected that he was just trying to drive up the price on the Yankees. The two teams do this dance every offseason, feigning interest in players in order to coax more assets from the opposing club.
However, this news from Edes is fascinating, as it seems the Red Sox were ready to dump their own closer and hand Mo a perfectly reasonable contract that would not hamstring them in the long term. Thankfully, Mo rejected them and will be returning on the same terms that the Red Sox offered, while the Sox are stuck with a sure to be displeased Papelbon. I would not be surprised if they explored trading him before the season begins, although I am uncertain whether they will find any takers for a pitcher who had a poor season and is slated to earn eight figures in 2011. It was a bold move for Theo to make a play for Mariano, but I wonder whether he might come to regret it if Papelbon acts out during the season.