Madson close to signing, Cuddyer next?
So far, Ruben Amaro Jr. is following my advice almost to the letter. Perhaps I should be on the payroll (can someone send me Rube’s email address?).
Reports say the Phillies are on the verge of signing their free-agent closer Ryan Madson to a 4-year, $44 million deal. While the the contract is longer than would be ideal, the $11 million a year pricetag is reasonable for a young-ish, 31-year-old closer, who saved 32 of 34 save chances last year and is particularly skilled at missing bats. The deal would also reportedly include a vesting option for a 5th year at $13 million and would give Madson the second-highest annual average value of any closer in baseball. Only Mariano Rivera would make more money per year than Madson.
All this for a guy who many felt didn’t have the “closer mentality.” As if the last three outs of a baseball game were any harder to get than the other 24.
Of course, a four-year deal for a 31-year-old player will likely cause some headaches at the end of the contract, especially if the fifth year vests. But with a glut of closers on the market, Madson was the best of the bunch. Last year, in 60.2 innings, Madson gave up only two home runs, struck out 62 and walked 16. The only reliever on the market comparable to Madson was Boston’s Jonathan Paplebon, who saved 31 out of 34 games with a 2.94 ERA. Paplebon was better K/9 (12.2 to Madson’s 9.2), and a better K/BB ratio (8.70 to 3.88). Paplebon also will be 31 next year and has been a closer longer than Madson. But check out Madson’s numbers against lefties last year… 19-for-96, 0 homers, and an OPS of just .506. Sick.
The Phillies chose to go with the devil they know, which is amazing considering no one in the organization thought Madson should have been the closer when Brad Lidge was hurt in spring training last season. It was Jose Contreras who was chosen to close until his 86-year-old right arm put him on the shelf for the year. The Phillies turned to Madson because their first two options imploded and they had no choice. Now, Madson is on the verge of being one of the wealthiest closers in baseball.
Of course, there is some intrigue to this story. Reports indicate that the deal has been in place since Monday, but CEO David Montgomery has yet to approve it. Could the deal blow up? Possibly, but not likely. Madson is a home-grown talent, is still relatively young, and has been remarkably durable and consistent over the last five years. Sure, the Phillies don’t usually give out contracts to pitchers longer than three years, but in this case, Montgomery will probably be convinced that Madson is worth the money.
Which brings us to Michael Cuddyer. In an earlier blog post a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the Phillies should go after Cuddyer as part of their off-season plan and the Phillies apparently agree. This week, Cuddyer visited with Phillies officials to talk about a possible deal. While he’s not terrific defensively at any position, he can play 1B, 2B, 3B, and both corner OF spots. He won’t win any Gold Gloves to be sure, but he’ll be much better than Raul Ibanez in LF and the offense he would provide at 3B and against left-handed pitchers at 1B should make up the difference.
The ideal contract for Cuddyer, who will be 33 next year, would be for two years. RAJ has a tendency to sign free agents who are well into their 30s to contracts a year too long (see Ibanez and Polanco) and in this case, Cuddyer will likely require at least a three-year deal. Anything longer than that, and the Phillies should move along. But if the Phils can get Cuddyer for three years at around $8-9 million a year, that should be a deal that works for both sides.
So far, Ruben Amaro is following my plan for success to perfection, although he’s doing it much more rapidly than I ever thought. Someone should tell him that you don’t win any bonus points by being the first GM to finish all your moves first. It’s OK to let the market shake out a little before throwing money at all these guys. But if I have to choose between an over-aggressive GM and Ed Wade, I’ll take the aggressive guy.
With Madson almost in the fold and Cuddyer in the works, the 2012 Phillies are starting to take shape.