There have been numerous huge deals this offseason. From Heath Bell getting $27 million for three years with the Miami Marlins, to Jonathan Papelbon signing with the Philadelphia Phillies for four years, $50 million, it's clear teams have been throwing cash around to secure closing pitchers.
In the midst of the offseason signing frenzy though, one player's name has been mysteriously absent from the news: former Phillies closer Ryan Madson.
A client of top agent Scott Boras (whose other clients include Prince Fielder and Jayson Werth), Madson has remained unsigned after his 32 saves and 2.37 ERA in 2011. It's not as if he's a product of a down market, though: Of the 13 free agents considered closers by MLBTradeRumors.com, Madson is one of only four still available (others are Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez and David Aardsma).
Joe Nathan, who only had 14 saves to match his 4.84 ERA in 44.2 innings last year, signed a 2-year, $14.75 million contract with the Texas Rangers. While $7.5 million a year might be too little to match Madson's asking price, it is obvious that he is the better closer. Another inferior closer, Frank Francisco, who saved 17 games with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, signed with the New York Mets for 2 years, $12 million.
So what does this mean for Ryan Madson? To put it bluntly, he's lost this offseason. There aren't many other openings for closers now, and at $11 million per year, Madson's asking price is just too high for teams still looking. Madson needs to realize that he isn't going to sign a mega-deal this offseason, and if he's smart he'll sign a one-year deal with the Phillies and wait for next year.
Madson, who is only 31 years old and put up the best numbers of his career in 2011, would be best suited as the Phillies' set-up man behind Jonathan Papelbon. Not only does Madson already have a life and a dedicated fanbase in Philadelphia, he knows the system and the other players on the team.
The Phillies have relief pitchers, but none of whom would be ideal in the set-up role. As it stands now, injury-prone 40-year-old Jose Contreras is the best option.
Payroll estimates for 2012 place the Phillies at about $170 million, eight million under the dreaded luxury tax. They could afford Madson at about $6-7 million, a more than fair price considering Madson's circumstance. After 2012, Madson would be able to try his luck again in the market, and he's more likely then to get the money he wants.
It's last call at the MLB Hotstove bar, and Ryan Madson is desperate. He came into the night (this offseason) thinking he would do well, but now he's scouring the bar for anyone who would take him home. It may leave a bad taste in his mouth the next morning, but the best option for him right now is to go home with Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies one last time.