Ryan Madson Injury: Who Replaces Him as Cincinnati Reds' Closer?

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterMarch 26, 2012

Ryan Madson saved 32 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011.
Ryan Madson saved 32 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011.Rich Pilling/Getty Images

Ryan Madson would love to do the past five months all over again. 

First, the news that you may have missed over the weekend. The Cincinnati Reds closer will miss the entire 2012 season with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow and will require Tommy John surgery. As somewhat gruesomely described by MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, the ligament in Madson's right elbow tore completely away from the bone.

This comes months after Madson apparently had a four-year, $44 million contract offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro insisted it was never a formal offer, and the team eventually signed Jonathan Papelbon for four years and $50 million. That left Madson to settle for a one-year deal with the Reds worth $8.5 million. 

However, Madson told CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman that he believed the Phillies did indeed make that offer. He'll have to console himself with that as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. 

Who will the Reds turn to as a replacement to pitch the ninth inning? The likeliest man for the job is Sean Marshall, whom Cincinnati acquired from the Chicago Cubs in December.

Marshall has been one of the best setup relievers in baseball over the past two seasons. Last year, the left-hander racked up 79 strikeouts in 75.2 innings, compiling a 6-6 record, 2.26 ERA and five saves. Marshall may have been even better in 2010, striking out 90 batters in 74.2 innings.

Trading for Sean Marshall looks like an even better move for the Cincinnati Reds now.
Trading for Sean Marshall looks like an even better move for the Cincinnati Reds now.Mark Lyons/Getty Images

Trading for Marshall was a quietly brilliant move for the Reds, giving them a fantastic eighth-inning man to pitch in front of Madson, and creating one of the deepest bullpens in the National League. Building that depth obviously looks even smarter now. 

Madson's injury will probably also solve Dusty Baker's dilemma as to where to pitch Aroldis Chapman. The Cuban fireballer was in competition with Homer Bailey for the fifth spot in the Reds' starting rotation, one of the team's last remaining position battles. 

Chapman looked great in his start on Saturday, pitching five scoreless innings with five strikeouts. But he's better suited to the bullpen than Bailey is, as B/R's Jay Clemons points out. Reds blogger Chad Dodson writes in a blog post for ESPN.com's Sweet Spot that Baker preferred Chapman as a reliever, anyway. At the very least, Chapman probably doesn't have to worry about being optioned to the minors now. 

Other in-house choices to replace Madson include Nick Masset, who's averaged a strikeout per inning over the past two years. Logan Ondrusek is another possibility, compiling a 3.45 ERA in his two big league seasons. But he's not a strikeout pitcher (averaging six K's per nine), which might hurt his chances. 

If the Reds have to look for a closer by midseason, some of the names on the trade market could include the Seattle Mariners' Brandon League, the Oakland Athletics' Grant Balfour, or Kevin Gregg and Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles. Maybe Cincinnati could bring back Francisco Cordero, their closer for the past four years, who's now with the Toronto Blue Jays