Yesterday, Ryan Madson signed what appears to be a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Cincinatti Reds, where he will be assuming closing duties for the 2012 season. Scott Boras, Madson’s agent, has no doubt decided that the market wouldn’t compensate his client fairly over the course of a long-term deal, so he opted to take a one-year deal to continue to build value and prove he can stick as a closer. Madson will be entering a 2012 offseason featuring little in the way of serious competition for a large contract. The 2011 offseason was not nearly as kind, featuring his replacement with the Phillies Jonathan Papelbon, as well as Heath Bell, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey and others. Although Madson must be feeling the sting of the $44 million deal that feel through with the Phillies, he has confidence in his ability to earn a similar contract next offseason, and should be commended for that.
The Madson signing has some implications for the Prince Fielder negotiations. First, it signals that Boras is in fact willing to significantly lower his contract demands in the face of a complete absence of suitors. Whereas Boras started the offseason seeking a contract in the Pujols range of $250 million over 10 years, he could now be prepared to entertain lower offers, both in years and dollars. For example, insiders have speculated that Boras might be willing to negotiate an opt-out clause after 3 years into Fielder’s contract. Such a clause would allow Fielder to re-enter the market at age 30, presumably having maintained or exceeded his performance from the last few seasons. He might then be able to obtain a massive contract that would be comparable in value to the Pujols’ contract, especially if he is the only power-hitter on the market that offseason.
The Madson signing also impacts the Rangers plans for the bullpen. Based on their pursuit of Andrew Baileyand then “checking in” on Madson, the Rangers are evidently still in pursuit of bullpen help. Earlier in the offseason representatives of the front office met with Scott Boras to discuss his other reliever, Mike Gonzalez, who was with the Rangers for half of 2011. A lefty specialist, Gonzalez would go a long way towards replacing the production that Darren Oliver would have offered. Now that Ryan Madson has reduced his pay demands, and the Reds are no longer seeking bullpen help and consequently reducing demand, it is possible other relievers such as Francisco Cordero or Kerry Wood might be available at more affordable prices.
Cordero was an effective reliever with the Rangers for many years earlier in his career, but so far the Rangers have not been connected to him. Kerry Wood pitched with the Cubs for the vast majority of his career, and for a while it seemed inevitable he would resign with them. However, the negotiations have deteriorated somewhat, and the Rangers might make a play for him.
At this point it looks like the Rangers will content themselves with resigning Gonzalez, and possibly using Spring Training as an audition to fill out the bullpen. For example, some minor leaguers such as Mark Hamburger distinguished themselves last season, and could be in line for a permanent promotion to the major leagues.