Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is Mariano Rivera worth?

The Boston Red Sox avoided arbitration with all-star closer Jonathan Papelbon by signing him to a one-year deal worth $9.35 million. The Boston Herald points out that the deal makes Papelbon only the 8th highest paid closer, even though he is higher than that on the quality list.

Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is the highest paid closer in baseball, making about $15 million a year. But this is the last year of his current contract so the real question remains to be answered: What is Mariano Rivera worth?

Mo had another successful regular season and fantastic playoff run in 2009. Unless he has a terrible 2010 campaign, he will be looking for a nice raise. How much more should Mo get? My answer is simple: whatever he wants.

The Yankees will obviously try to hold the line on any salary increase, but they would be in a bad spot if they try to pinch pennies with the greatest closer in baseball history. It would be a much worse public relations disaster than the Mets openly embarrassing Carlos Beltran by accusing him of having an unsanctioned surgery. I doubt the Yankees want to take that risk.

Aside from the PR damage, the Yanks have a real baseball problem on their hands if they get into a contract battle with Rivera. The team has no replacement for him (they don't even have a reliable set-up man for him at this point) so what are their options? They could try to sign a free-agent closer or trade for one, but there's no one in baseball with his track record of success, particularly in the postseason. And would anyone want to be the guy who replaces a pushed-out Rivera in the Bronx? I don't think so. Yankee fans would treat him worse than they treat the Red Sox.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

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