Philadelphia Phillies: Will Ryan Madson Become the Closer in the Near Future?

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Philadelphia Phillies: Will Ryan Madson Become the Closer in the Near Future?
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On January 18, Ryan Madson woke up to some pretty good news.

No, he was not the recipient of a new contract.

No, his wife was not expecting another child.

And no, most certainly, the Phillies had already signed Cliff Lee back in December.

It was an important day for Madson, however, a day in which reliever Rafael Soriano finalized a three-year contract with the New York Yankees to set up future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. A $35 million payout to Soriano certainly raised eyebrows around the league, and a whole lot of questions.

Why New York, when the Yankees already have an established closer that shows no signs of letting up any time soon? More important, why so much money?

We've been down this road before, with guys like Francisco Cordero, Brandon Lyon and Francisco Rodriguez in past years. This offseason, Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Scott Downs and others all set themselves up very nicely financially for the next few seasons.

It now begs the question: How much is someone like Madson worth, and will he be a Phillie in 2012?

First off, it's important to note that the Phillies hold a team option in 2012 with current closer Brad Lidge, for approximately $12.5 million.

Should the Phillies decline that, they can work out a deal with Lidge at a lesser price or they can say goodbye to the man who helped deliver a World Series title in 2008 and turn over the closer role to Madson. It would be hard to see the Phillies keeping both men in the bullpen, primarily due to cost.

It would not be prudent for the Phillies to spend approximately $20 million per year on a pair of relievers, which is likely somewhere in the neighborhood of what it would cost to pay Lidge and Madson in 2012.

It is also important to note that Madson is the lone Scott Boras client on the Phillies' roster. The Phillies were able to work out a three-year, $12 million contract with Madson and Boras prior to the 2009 season.

However, they have had trouble with Boras in the past. The J.D. Drew saga still haunts many Phillies fans to this day. Meanwhile, Jayson Werth hired Boras towards the end of the 2010 season and finds himself in Washington with a hefty payday. Not that anybody is blaming the Phillies for overpaying Werth, though.

Boras has done his job very well and though many don't like him, he certainly has gotten the most for his clients, a list that includes Matt Holliday, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

Obviously, dealing with Madson will be a different animal altogether. Relievers are usually relatively unpredictable and only the best ones are rewarded with substantial contracts.

It's safe to say that Madson is in line for one himself after posting a career-low 2.55 ERA last season. Since moving to the bullpen in 2007, Madson has pitched 269 innings, allowing just 242 hits and posting a 3.01 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

His K/9 ratio has increased each season since 2007 and was at 10.87 last year. That puts him in the discussion with guys like Benoit, Heath Bell and Brian Wilson.

The question remains, though, whether he will receive a contract like Benoit's or Matt Thornton's (who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox on Sunday), or whether it will look something more like Soriano's.

Teams seem to value closer experience, and Soriano's 45 saves last season for Tampa Bay certainly earned him his extra loot. Indeed, Madson has been known to struggle in his career in save situations, but that is unlikely to scare many teams away.

Comparing Madson to Soriano is relevant in terms of trying to figure out what type of deal Madson might be in line for.

Since 2007, the same year Madson became a full-time reliever, Soriano has posted a .93 WHIP, far lower than Madson's 1.20 during that same time.

If there is one thing Madson has going for him, it's that he has been relatively healthy in the past few seasons. Despite his freak injury last season (a broken toe caused by kicking a chair after a game in San Francisco), Madson has been relatively healthy throughout the past four seasons.

Soriano and Benoit, meanwhile, have both dealt with shoulder issues. Soriano missed almost all of the 2008 season with elbow issues, and Benoit has had his fair share of injury issues throughout his career.

This much is known: The Phillies will need another big season out of Madson if they want to have success coming from their bullpen. What is not known is where Madson will be in 2012.

It is likely, though, looking at his recent performance and comparing him to other pitchers, that Madson will be worth $7 million-$9 million to some team. The Phillies, in a perfect world, would probably work out some sort of deal with Madson during the season, but the current situation would not make that feasible.

Boras has likely discussed with Madson a plan of attack, one that will include waiting to see whether or not Lidge will return to the Phillies in 2012.

For now, though, Madson will focus on trying to help the Phillies to another World Series in 2011.

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