“Don’t Stop Believing.” This classic song by the band Journey has been chosen as the entrance song to Phillies closer Ryan Madson. While I question the thought process of picking such a never give up song, it may be the battle cry of Phillies fans when free agency starts next November. Ryan Madson, who is in his first year as the Phillies closer, is in the last year of his 3 year $12 million dollar deal he signed in 2009. The veteran righty is having a career year, sporting a 2.10 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched. He’s notched 15 saves in 16 opportunities. While Madson has certainly come into his own I question if the Phillies should even consider signing the California native to a long term deal.
Before you stop reading just hear me out here. I know that we have all fell in love with Madson as our closer. With Brad Lidge on the disabled list he arguably has stolen Lidge’s nickname as “Lights Out”. Madson plans to play a big part of the Phillies run to the playoffs, and hopefully the World Series but after that you figure Madson is going to be looking to cash in on a big payday thanks to his agent Scott Boras.
Madson will be a Type A free agent next year meaning that any team that signs Madson will have to forfeit their first round pick, depending on their draft order, and the Phillies would also receive a supplemental pick. Best case scenario would be the Phillies offer Madson arbitration and he signs with a team who would have to give up their draft pick resulting in the Phillies receiving a first round pick, the supplemental pick, as well as owning their own first round pick.
While the Phillies farm system isn’t nearly as bad as major publications would like you to believe (their best talent is just in lower levels) they could look to get the valuable draft picks and restock the system with top tier talent. With an aging nucleus it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world
While the Phillies are claiming that they can go no further in terms of adding salary, they also have 52 million coming off the books after the 2011 season. While many will want to use that many to lock up Madson I would think a bigger pressing issue is locking up Cole Hamels. I have no idea how much it will take to lock up Hamels to a long term deal but I think many Phillies fans would rather have Hamels in Phillies pinstripes than Madson in 2012.
The main reason I think the Phillies should let Madson walk to greener pastures is the promising farm system. The Phillies currently have two relievers in their system with closer like material, and both are at the higher levels.
The first is Justin De Fratus who was recently promoted to AAA Leigh High Valley after a strong showing in AA Reading. For the R-Phils De Fratus served as the teams closer and compiled a 4-0 record with a 2.10 ERA. In 23 appearances, 34.1 innings, he struck out 43 while collecting 8 saves. De Fratus is just 23 years old and could be in the Phillies bullpen by the end of the year. In 2010 with both Single A Clearwater and AA Reading he racked up 21 saves while having a 1.94 ERA. He’s no stranger to the closers role and currently is the team’s best closer prospect.
The second closer prospect in the minors was a big piece in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners. 2010 Was a year to forget for Phillippe Aumont as it saw him start in AA Reading and end in Single A Clearwater. The Phillies started Aumont out as a starter so he could work on his secondary pitches, but he flopped in the starting rotation and was eventually demoted and converted back to a reliever.
2011 Is a fresh start for the Quebec native who, like De Fratus was pitching in AA Reading but recently recieved a promotion to AAA as a reliever. Aumont has a 1-5 record with a 2.32 ERA. In 25 appearances, 31 innings pitched, he has struck out 41 batters and racked up 4 saves. He will likely be used as a set up man for the Iron Pigs with De Fratus looking to save games.
Both De Fratus and Aumont should be in the Phillies bullpen sooner rather than later. Both recently got the call to AAA and will look for continued success at the next level. Aumont is just 22 years old and looks to have righted the ship from his awful 2010 season.
While I can’t imagine the Phillies letting either De Fratus or Aumont close for them in 2012, the Phillies could look for a cheap stop gap until they are ready. The Phillies have found their lefty specialist out of the pen in young Antonio Bastardo and they like him in that role, so if Madson is let go I can’t imagine he would get the call. The Phillies also have Jose Contreras under contract for next season and he filled in nicely as the teams closer to start the season before getting injured, and ultimately losing his job to Madson.
While I like Ryan Madson a lot, I don’t know if it would be worth signing him to a long term deal. The team will need to resign Cole Hamels, and also find another lefty out of the bullpen for next season as Romero has been ineffective and working on a 1 year deal. The Phillies may also look to sign an outfielder to play left field if they don’t feel comfortable with Ben Francisco.
The Phillies would gain a first round pick, a supplemental pick, and would save money to lock up Hamels all by letting Madson walk. The closer void wouldn’t be a void for long with the minors producing two young closers who are inching closer and closer to Citizens Bank Park. What you gain by letting Madson walk may be too good for the Phillies to pass up.