This article is courtesy of our friends at Brotherly Glove
Written by: Eric Seidman
Pitchers and catchers report in about five weeks — which is kind of crazy to think about in and of itself — and Ryan Madson finally has a home. The former Phillies reliever will close
for the Cincinnati Reds in 2012, having signed a one-year deal worth $8.5 million guaranteed, and incentives that could put the value at $10 million.
The deal is tremendous for the Reds, as they get one of the very best relievers in the game on a minimal commitment. It’s unfortunate for Madson, who figured to sign for substantially
more in his first foray into free agency, but there is some silver lining. In addition to getting paid $8.5 million — more than he would have gotten through arbitration — he gets to hit free
agency after the season, when far fewer closers will join him.
Madson’s free agent prospects were largely victimized by the glut of capable closers and closing options this offseason. While teams may not have been scared off by his “lack of experience”, they certainly weren’t going to pay him $11 million per year for three or four years when, say, Frank Francisco was available for $10 million over two years, or when relievers like Huston Street and Sergio Santos were available via trade.
Ultimately, everything should work out for Madson. He isn’t going to age that much from last year to this one, and he should pitch very well for his new employer. After the season, teams will view his closing attributes in a different light, and he’ll sign a long-term deal. However, activity this offseason suggests that teams may actually be getting wiser about the silliness of signing 60-IP pitchers to multi-year, eight-figured salaries.
Of all the closers that were acquired via trade or free agency this offseason, only Papelbon received a multi-year deal with an average annual value exceeding $10 million. Francisco signed the aforementioned deal with the Mets. The Padres traded for Street, while the Blue Jays acquired Santos. The Rangers, with both Mike Adams and Koji Uehara in the bullpen, were able to take a chance on Joe Nathan for $14 million over two years.
The Tigers signed Octavio Dotel and the Rays signed Fernando Rodney, both on cheaper, team-friendly contracts. Other than the Phillies deal with Papelbon, the only “significant” multi-year deal was doled out to Heath Bell by the Marlins.
Teams certainly seem more keen than usual on spending less on closers, or filling vacancies in more creative ways, and it shows in their actual offseason activities.
Ruben Amaro is still a relatively young General Manager, and one would hope that after seeing what happened with Madson and Jimmy Rollins, he would recognize the benefits of waiting. This isn’t going to be the umpteenth article discussing Papelbon’s actual contract, but there is definitely something to be said for waiting the market out a bit, especially with numerous viable options on the table.
If some other team jumped the gun and signed Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies could still try and outbid them. If he chose the other team, then numerous cheaper options existed, either through traditional or progressive approaches.
For a team with a tight proximity to the luxury tax threshold, every million dollars is of material interest. While Papelbon may have been their guy, in jumping the gun they ended up paying way more than anyone else for their closer, in a situation where waiting, and hoping the price dropped, carried very little risk.
A positional glut benefits teams, as the ease of opting for alternative solutions tends to drive down asking prices. Not taking advantage of a glut isn’t always a bad business practice, but in this case it’s unfortunate for the Phillies. Madson entered the offseason expecting something in the avenue of four years and $40 million. He signed for a maximum of exactly one-fourth of that on the team-friendliest deal given to any closer this offseason.
Best of luck to Ryan Madson in his new home… except, of course, when he pitches against the Phillies.