Ryan Madson seemed to have struck it rich in free agency in December.
But now he's going to have to prove himself all over again as a closer if he wants the big, big money.
The AP reported early Wednesday morning that the Cincinnati Reds and Madson had reached an agreement on a one-year contract worth $8.5 million. Great work if you can get it, but nothing close to the $44 million deal Madson reportedly was set to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies a month ago. That deal was apparently nixed by ownership, prompting Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro to turn around and spend $50 million on former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
A month later, something has now become apparent to Madson's agent, Scott Boras: Not only were the Phillies not going to pay his client, but no other teams were going to give Madson $44 million, either. Supply, say good-bye to demand. (And the next time someone insists that Boras could sell sand to Egypt, remember this moment.)
Not that $8.5 million is bad money — it's close to what Madson would have made in arbitration — it's just not what Madson figured he had coming on the open market. He saved 32 games in 34 opportunities in 2011, his first full season as a closer in Philly after setting up Brad Lidge (and others) for the better part of seven years. He has been a great relief pitcher, regardless of his second-class status as a setup man, but only closers get the big, big money. Well, some closers.
Madson is in a good position in 2012 to get lots of saves with the Reds, who ought to be the favorites in the NL Central. But he's 31 years old, going on 32, and has logged 630 big-league innings. Anything could happen with injuries or bad luck. And the Reds hitter-friendly ballpark has a way of skewing pitchers' stats in an unflattering manner. Madson might not get a chance to make Papelbon money ever again. And, speaking of musical pitchers, who knows where former Reds closer Francisco Cordero will sign? The Angels? It probably won't be for as much money as he hoped, either.
Meanwhile over in Philadelphia, the Phillies can be pleased with having a great pitcher such as Papelbon at the end of their bullpen. He's better than Madson (although not by a lot) and he's younger (by a few weeks).
And he's certainly richer.
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