Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has once again kept his record intact—he has never gone to an arbitration hearing with one of his players during his tenure as general manager of the Red Sox.

This afternoon, the Red Sox avoided arbitration with their center fielder and closer, coming to terms with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon on one-year deals that will keep the parties out of pending arbitration hearings.

The deal with Ellsbury was the first to be announced earlier today, followed a short time later by confirmation of the agreement with Pappy. Ellsbury, who earned just under one-half of a million dollars last year, will earn $2.4 million (the deal also contains incentives that will pay him an additional $50,000 for each of 600 and 700 plate appearances). Papelbon, who made $9.35 million last year, will earn $12 million.

This was Ellsbury’s first year of arbitration eligibility. It wasn’t necessarily the best time for him to head into arbitration, as he missed the majority of last year due to a succession of rib injuries.

It was Papelbon’s third shot at arbitration; but, as with Ellsbury, it wasn’t the best time for him to get in front of an arbitrator, as he had his worst season last year (he went 5-7, with 37 saves and a 3.90 ERA… but he also blew a career-high eight saves).

Pappy has settled his dispute in each of the three instances he has headed into the arbitration process, but he has previously made it abundantly clear that he intends to go through free agency next winter.

He has frequently said he wants to establish a record for highest contract ever given a reliever in free agency. Of course, that was before he blew Game 3 of the ’09 ALCS and then followed that up with the worst season of his career.

Today’s Papelbon deal didn’t set any records, but it came close – it’s the fourth-highest one-year deal in history for an arbitration-eligible player. The record also came today – a $15.5 million deal for Prince Fielder. It is followed by a $12.5 million signed by Mark Teixeira (2008, with Atlanta) and a $12.4 million deal agreed to by Carlos Zambrano (2007, with the Cubs).

Kudos to Theo for getting these deals done. As a professional negotiator, I can attest to the fact that arbitration is an undesirable and confrontational process that pits an employer against the employee under the worst of circumstances.

The system places the employer in the uncomfortable position of having to diminish the employee’s performance and accomplishments in order to convince the arbitrator to award the lowest salary under consideration. It is a system that NEEDS TO BE revised.

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