Potential Player of Interest: Ryan Madson | The Process Report

Potential Player of Interest: Ryan Madson

After several seasons of high-level relief work—including displays of the closer’s mentality—Ryan Madson eyed a multi-year deal last offseason. He appeared to reach an agreement with the Phillies to return for a hefty sum. Instead, the Phillies went with Jonathan Papelbon, leaving Madson in the cold. As the market dried up for Madson, I wondered if he and the Rays could forge a short marriage of abilities and resources. Ultimately, Madson signed a one-year deal with the Reds, worth a guaranteed $8.5 million.

Madson’s time with the Reds seemingly ended before it began. In March, it was announced that Madson would undergo Tommy John Surgery, wiping out his 2012 season. While the Reds and Madson hold a mutual $11 million option for 2013, there is a decent chance Madson will never make an official appearance for the club. With Madson potentially available again, it’s time to wonder if the Rays may come calling.

If we have learned anything by now covering the Rays, it is this: bullpen production is volatile  When you expect a reliever to zig, they zag. What you think a pitcher is up, he turns out to be down. With Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee, and perhaps others returning in 2013, the Rays’ bullpen appears to be a strength.  But nothing in the bullpen is ever a guarantee. Adding a returning Madson could solidify what already looks like a strong bullpen chain.

Though there will be some continuity from the 2012 group, it is unlikely all seven principle members of the Rays bullpen return. Joel Peralta has his heart set on coming back, and I’m guessing J.P. Howell and Kyle Farnsworth feel the same, however, simple economics make it unlikely. Madson will not come to Tampa Bay as a non-roster invitee. However, the guaranteed money involved may be less than for a similar reliever without a freshly-added scar on his throwing elbow.

Dollars aside, a healthy Madson would provide a substantial boost to the Rays’ bullpen. Madson throws in the mid-90 but doesn’t rely only on velocity. His best weapon is a changeup that comes across in the low-80s. In Madson’s first season from surgery it’s possible his velocity fluctuates—rule of thumb used to suggest that it takes 18 months to make a full recovery. Madson should be fine as long as he still has a semblance of fastball command and ability to sell the changeup.

The effectiveness of his fastball/changeup combination has given Madson platoon neutrality. Since 2009, he has held lefties to a .624 OPS while keeping fellow righties at .622. In the same time frame, he struck out 26 percent of batters faced while unintentionally walking just four percent. Keeping the off-speed pitch arm-side and down, he has generated a whiff on 60 percent of the swings against it.

A good reliever available for less than his market value sounds like an item on Andrew Friedman’s shopping list. There is no guarantee here, of course. Madson could show loyalty to the Reds, allowing them to recoup some of their sunk investment; or someone could give him the big deal he seemed destined for last winter. Just keep Madson in mind if he finds himself without a dance partner at the end of the offseason.

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