Apparently the first entry on Ruben Amaro Jr.'s off-season to-do list was Throw gobs of money at a closer. Last week the Phillies' G.M. was reportedly close to giving incumbent stopper Ryan Madson a four-year, $44 million contract, which would have been the fifth-largest deal ever for a reliever. But by the weekend Amaro moved on to bigger things, signing free agent Jonathan Papelbon away from the Red Sox for four years and $50 million—the most lucrative reliever contract ever. History suggests that spending big, in years and cash, on free-agent closers is a mistake. Here's how the five biggest pre-Papelbon closer deals have panned out; in terms of WAR (wins above replacement, 3.0 being a solid figure for a closer), teams have generally gotten less bang for their bucks as the years have gone by. (WAR data from baseball-reference.com.)

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MARIANO RIVERA

Yankees 2008--10, $45 million

FRANCISCO CORDERO

Reds 2008--11, $46 million

BILLY WAGNER

Mets 2006--09, $43 million

B.J. RYAN

Blue Jays 2006--10, $47 million

JOE NATHAN

Twins 2008--11, $47 million

KEY

WAR FOR SEASON

DID NOT PLAY THAT SEASON

1ST YEAR

2ND YEAR

3RD YEAR

4TH YEAR

5TH YEAR

WAR

4.0

3.0

2.0

1.0

0.0

-1.0

PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (RIVERA)
PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (CORDERO) PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (RYAN) PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (WAGNER) PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (NATHAN) PHOTOWINSLOW TOWNSON (PAPELBON)JONATHAN PAPELBON