MLB Free-Agent Contract Prediction: Ryan Madson

PHOENIX: Relief pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Remember when the reports said that Ryan Madson was returning to the Phillies for four years and $44 million? He sure does.

Back on November 8, it looked like Ryan Madson was returning to the Phillies. Jim Duquette tweeted thusly:

Hearing Phils closing in on 4 year deal with closer Ryan Madson. If so, nice job getting this done on both sides !

And this was followed by Tim Brown

Confirming Madson with Phils, 4 for 44 mil. Fifth-year option worth 13 mil.

Then Twitter exploded. Four years? Eleven million dollars per? For a reliever? Were the Phillies mad?

The Phillies' front office and ownership group -- always a sensitive and impressionable group -- took these comments to heart. They saw people reacting to the contract, and they did the only thing they could do: They found a different reliever, and they gave him more money. That'll learn 'em.

So while Madson was probably a little peeved with how his now-certain departure from the Phillies went, he could still expect a huge payday at that point, or at least something close to what the Phillies had (reportedly) offered. If Jonathan Papelbon was worth four years and $50 million, surely Madson was worth four years and $44 million. He didn't have to cancel his deposit on that hover-Ferrari just yet.

Then Heath Bell signed for three years, $27 million.

Then the Red Sox traded for a cheap closer.

Suddenly, all of the closing jobs were pretty much spoken for. Once you eliminate the teams that are ostensibly rebuilding, like the Astros, A's, and White Sox, there are exactly three teams that might be looking for an expensive closer: the Reds, Twins, and Angels. The Angels already have Jordan Walden, but they probably wouldn't mind paying a cost-certainty tax to improve on their closer. The Twins paid Matt Capps several million dollars to return, so they might think that he's an option to close. And Francisco Cordero is still out there, likely to sign a shorter deal for less money.

What's even worse is that the poor salesman at the hover-Ferrari dealership has already spent the commission he thought he was going to get. No one is happy right now.

A reminder: Madson is really, really good.

2007 26 3.05 38 1 56.0 23 43 0.8
2008 27 3.05 76 1 82.2 23 67 0.7
2009 28 3.26 79 10 77.1 22 78 0.8
2010 29 2.55 55 5 53.0 13 64 0.7
2011 30 2.37 62 32 60.2 16 62 0.3
Provided by View Original Table Generated 1/3/2012.

No, it's never a good idea to spend a huge portion of a budget on a guy who will pitch about 5 percent of the total innings for his team, but if a team feels like they absolutely have to pay retail for such a player, the very least they could do is get a really, really good reliever. Madson qualifies.

Now all he has to do is find a team that wants him. The Angels might have interest, but they will be understandably reticent to commit to a long-term deal to anyone now. The Twins probably don't have any interest unless the price drops dramatically. The Reds can flirt with Madson, but they might do it just for leverage over the incumbent, Cordero.

Prediction: Phillies, one year, $12 million.

It's a somewhat goofy prediction, what with the Phillies already yoinking a deal off the table, but I'd wager that Madson would rather take a one-year deal with a team that he's comfortable with than a two-year deal with a team like the Twins or Reds. The Angels are the logical destination, but I don't seem them going for a three-year deal.

And Madson hitting the market after 2012 might give him a better chance at the long-term deal that he was hosed out of this offseason. It would be a gamble, but so would a two-year deal -- a lot can happen to a pitcher in two years. The Phillies are probably close to their payroll limit, if they haven't exceeded it already, but they can always find room for one more piece for their underrated pitching staff.

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