Once a Red Sox top pitching prospect, closer Daniel Bard has stepped in nicely in the bullpen for the Red Sox posting a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances this season. He has three saves, but has struck out 37 to just 12 walks. The main reason why Bard is being given this consideration for "closer of the future" is because Papelbon has made inklings about wanting a long-term contract for big money. Papelbon, however, is not set to be a free agent until after the 2011 season so the Red Sox have some time to let this play out.
Papelbon, who owns a 2.96 ERA with 15 saves and 24 strike outs, has been more than an outspoken closer on and off the field. He has hinted at trying to set a new precedent for closer contracts, which one could argue is fair considering Papelbon owns a career 1.94 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
In the long term, especially for the already high-payroll Red Sox, keeping Bard and shipping Papelbon out will allow them to have more payroll flexibility if they pursue a catcher, shortstop, or corner outfielder.
What teams could pursue Papelbon?