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Papelbon, Lopez sign one-year deals

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 20, 2009 02:58 PM

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The Red Sox today announced that closer Jonathan Papelbon and lefthanded reliever Javier Lopez have agreed to one-year contracts, avoiding arbitration.

The club did not divulge the financial terms of either deal, but the Globe's Amalie Benjamin has confirmed that Papelbon, a three-time All-Star, will be paid $6.25 million in 2009, while Lopez will receive $1.35 million.

In a conference call later in the day, Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer said Papelbon and the team remain open and willing to reach a multi-year contract extension.

"We did have some discussions along the way," Hoyer said. "I would say, certainly, those discussions are open and we may pick them up going forward. I think both sides felt like in the interest of time and not exchanging numbers [for an arbitration hearing], the best thing to do was to agree on a one-year number today. But we are certainly open to exploring those ideas, and I think their side is, too."

Papelbon's deal is a record for a first-year arbitration-eligible relief pitcher. The agreements also extend Theo Epstein's streak of never having gone to arbitration with any player during his six-plus years as Boston's general manager.

Papelbon, 28, had a 2.34 ERA and 41 saves last year, when he was paid $775,000. He set career highs with 67 appearances and 69.1 innings, and his save total was a career-best and the third-most in the American League.

Papelbon, who came to the Red Sox organization as the fourth-round selection in the 2003 draft, has had a remarkable run of success early in his career. His 1.84 ERA is the second-lowest in major league history since 1900 among pitchers with at least 200 innings, behind only Ed Walsh (1.82). He is 2-0 with seven saves in 16 career playoff games and has thrown a postseason-record 25 innings without allowing a run.

He is one of four pitchers ever to record 30 or more saves in at least each of his first three full seasons, joining Billy Koch (4), Kazuhiro Sasaki (3), and Todd Worrell (3). With 113 career saves, he already ranks second in Red Sox history, trailing only Bob Stanley (132).

Lopez, 31, tossed a career-high 59.1 innings last season, his third with the Red Sox. He posted a 2.43 ERA and finished fourth in the AL with 70 appearances.

***

The Red Sox today also traded reliever David Aardsma to the Mariners for lefthanded pitcher Fabian Williamson.

The 20-year-old Williamson was 4-3 with a 4.10 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 52.2 innings at Single-A Pulaski in 2008. He has 144 strikeouts in 124.1 innings for his career at the minor league level.

The Globe's Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.

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