A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the Philadelphia Phillies and Papelbon have agreed to a $50 million, four-year contract that's the largest ever for a reliever. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because the deal had not yet been announced and is subject to Papelbon passing a physical.
Papelbon, who turns 30 on Nov. 23, had 219 saves over seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, including 31 this year, when he made $12 million. He will replace Ryan Madson, who also is a free agent.
B.J. Ryan's $47 million, five-year contract with Toronto signed before the 2006 season had been the largest for a reliever.
Madson's agent, Scott Boras, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. were close to a $44 million, four-year deal on Monday. But Amaro told Boras the following day that team president Dave Montgomery wouldn't approve the deal. That offer included a vesting option that would have taken the contract to $57 million over five years.
The Phillies have long been opposed to giving pitchers contracts beyond three years. They made an exception last year when they signed left-hander Cliff Lee to a $120 million, five-year deal.
The right-handed Papelbon, a four-time All-Star, helped the Red Sox to the 2004 and 2007 World Series titles. He donned a kilt and danced his trademark Irish jig at both championship celebrations.
Papelbon can do whatever he likes if he can help the Phillies secure another World Series title. The five-time NL East champions are seeking their second Series victory since 2008. They lost in the World Series to the New York Yankees in 2009, were eliminated in the NLCS in 2010 and got knocked out in the NL division series this year.
Madson was outstanding in his first year as the team's closer, converting 32 of 34 chances. He was Brad Lidge's setup man for the previous three years, and spent his first nine seasons in Philadelphia. Madson was 47-30 with a 3.59 ERA and 52 saves in 491 career games, including 18 starts.
Papelbon, a starter in the minor leagues, has converted 88.3 percent of his save opportunities to go with a 23-19 record and a 2.33 ERA in 396 career appearances. He had a career-high 41 saves in 2008.
Signing a closer and re-signing former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins were Philadelphia's top two offseason priorities. Rollins, a three-time All-Star shortstop, wants to return to the Phillies and the team wants to bring him back at the right price.
Papelbon is a Type A free agent, meaning the Phillies will have to forfeit their first draft pick in next year's amateur draft to Boston.
Papelbon's agreement was first reported by CSNPhilly.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.