Theo Epstein's streak of not going to arbitration continues, as the Red Sox have agreed to 1-year contracts with Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Even coming off by far the worst year of his career, Papelbon managed to pick up a $12 million dollar deal--$2.65 million more than what he made in 2010. According to Sean McAdam, that's good for the third-highest salary ever given to an arbitration-eligible player on a one-year deal. While it's not unusual for a third year arbitration player to earn about what they might on the open market, that's a lot of money to shell out for a reliever coming off a 3.90 ERA season.
Jacoby Ellsbury, meanwhile, will pick up $2.4 million in his first year of arbitration. That's a pretty typical amount, and puts Ellsbury solidly into the "home-grown bargain" category, at least for now.
The organization has long been reluctant to actually go to arbitration with players given the ill-will that can form when the front office actually has to do their best to downplay the player's worth. Still, in this case, it might have been best for Papelbon. There aren't many out there who actually expect the team to re-sign Papelbon once he reaches free agency, and if the arbitrator had come in on the Red Sox' side (likely close to his 2010 salary) after his disappointing performance, it may have served as a wake-up call that Papelbon has to step up his performance if he wants the big payday he seems to expect is coming.
On the other hand, the Red Sox are a pretty complete team as is, and it's hard to say where they'd spend that money on their payroll without cutting another player. If the return is avoiding ego issues with the ever-cocky Papelbon, then perhaps it's for the best.