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MLB Free Agents 2012: Phillies Need To Re-Sign Ryan Madson, Cole Hamels

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MLB Free Agents 2012: Phillies Need To Re-Sign Ryan Madson, Cole Hamels
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With MLB free agency starting at midnight tonight, re-signing Ryan Madson (above) has to be the Phillies' top priority.

Smart guy, Ruben Amaro is.

OK. So maybe this example pales when held against the deals he's swung and calls he's made.

But, however unglamorous and admittedly obvious, Amaro's intentions have their merits too. Let's be real: Who wouldn't try to keep Ryan Madson from the sharks lurking in the free-agent surf?

"We'd love to keep (Madson and Jimmy Rollins) off the market if we can do it," Amaro said, in advent of tonight's midnight opening of free-agent waters.

"We've had discussions with the agents of both players."

That quote alludes to a crowd that I can't warm up to, being that it includes Rollins, both yesterday's news and tomorrow's letdown. They can't bring J-Roll back, not for the five years he thinks he has left nor the $13 million per he thinks he's worth.

But that's a separate issue we'll stew on later.

This is about Madson. Not the column.

Next season.

Madson is 31 years young, and went 32-for-34 in save attempts last season, which bodes well for his reliability and longevity. His production could dip—wouldn't be the first time a closer's fallen off—but there's no reason to expect it.

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They could poke around free agency for a replacement, say, Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell or Francisco Rodriguez and Co. But why bother? Given those options' future price points and past production, the chase for any would be essentially the same, minus all the trust Madson's built.

They need to spend money this winter, and it best be on Madson.

Why? They don't have in-house alternatives. Sure Antonio Bastardo's marks were comparable—Bastardo blew only one save in nine tries—but even a half-season-plus of consistency didn't add up to comfort enough to pitch him in the postseason. Bastardo saw the mound only twice in October, for a whopping one inning of work.

If you couldn't count on Bastardo then, you can't lean on him throughout next season.

Ryan Madson must come back.

The conventional wisdom is that he'll go to the highest bidder, being a Scott Boras client and all. Even in light of Jered Weaver bucking the money-hungry history of Boras clients and signing a five-year, $85 million extension somewhat shockingly—he did it during the middle of this past season, and against his agent's wishes—you can't expect that lightning to strike twice.

At least you can't leave it to chance, especially not since, according to Amaro, sides have spoken between the end of the season and now—when the Phillies have had exclusive negotiating access—but haven't yet struck a deal.

When Ryan Madson eventually signs, will he be holding up another team's jersey at an introductory press conference elsewhere?

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The Phillies have to pony up.

How badly? What's the importance of a closer these days?

Chew on this: In 2011, no stat in baseball more closely correlated with winning than relief pitching. Of the eight teams to qualify for the postseason, six—the Phillies (No. 1), Tigers (No. 2), Diamondbacks (No. 3), Yankees (No. 6), Rays (No. 7) and Brewers (No. 8)—finished among baseball's top eight in save percentage. 

That held up more than Moneyball numbers—only five playoff teams finished in the top eight in OPS and walks—and hallmarks of starting pitching, like ERA and strikeouts.

And that's just what was. What will be in 2012? Tired arms from Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who went No. 2 and 4 among National League pitchers in innings pitched and, with a combined $41.5 million scheduled earnings, are too pricey to ask of a similar load again.

Allow me to reiterate: They need Madson.

He has to be top priority. I've heard the rumblings about Vance Worley-and-Domonic Brown-for-David Wright deal with the Mets, which would fill a need and make a splash—two things sports fans everywhere love to love—but also jockeys for both dollars and attention.

They can't afford to skimp on either.

Madson has to come first.

If negotiations slip, or if Madson walks, the 2012 season isn't lost. I mean, the 2009 Phillies won more with less.

But Phillie teams were more prohibitively favored in the two years that followed, and rightly so.

They regressed. Twice.

Losing out on Madson would grease the slide.

But Amaro sees all that. He has to.

Smart guy, Ruben Amaro is.

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