FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Speaking to WEEI.com following his annual spring training meeting with the media, Jonathan Papelbon talked about how important the contract Rafael Soriano signed with the Yankees was, and how it might effect his mindset while potentially heading into free agency after 2011.
"That's the position I want to be in," Papelbon said regarding Soriano's positioning heading into the free agent market following the 2010 season. "When the season is all said and done this year, I want to be the No. 1 guy coming out, no question."
Soriano, perceived as the top reliever available on the open market in the offseason after notching an American League-best 45 saves with Tampa Bay, inked a three-year, $35 million deal with the Yankees to set-up Mariano Rivera. Papelbon did say that he was open to the idea of returning to the Red Sox next season, while saying he understood speculation this may his final year in Boston.
The Soriano deal, along with Rivera's two-year, $30 million contract, slowed down a downward trend for closers in terms of salaries. Papelbon, who avoided arbitration by inking a one-year, $12 million in Jan., could be fighting for the free agent dollars with closers Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan (club option for $12.5 million), Brad Lidge (club option for $12.5 million), and even Soriano, who has an opt-out clause after each of his first two seasons with New York.
"I don't know all the logistics of his deal, but it definitely has opened doors for a lot other people in this game," said Papelbon of Soriano. "I think it has opened a lot of things in the game, and that's a good thing for people to do.
"I'm excited. [Soriano] was one of the best in the game last year and people should realize that. If you're one of the best, you should be [paid] like one of the best."
Papelbon said that his goal heading into '11 is to put all doubts about his status as one of the game's closers to rest.
"I think that's my mindset this year," he said. "I understand there are a lot of doubters out there, and that's just natural, but I use that for fuel. That's just me. That's who I am."
When talking earlier to the collection of media at the team's minor-league training facility, Papelbon did stress that he wasn't planning on letting thoughts of free agency dictate his approach for the upcoming season.
“I think for the most part, guys like us, we will be fine," he said. "Is it human nature to think about those things? Of course it’s human nature. But to think about them and then sit there and dwell on them are two totally different things. Are we going to think about it? Of course. We’re humans. But to sit there and dwell on it and wonder is this going to happen, is that going to happen, I don’t think that will be the case.”
For more coverage from spring training, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.
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