In his first (almost) full year as the Phillies closer, it’s been an outstanding year for Ryan Madson. With the usual injury issues of Brad Lidge and the seemingly ageless Jose Contreras, Madson, who for years has been the trusted right-handed set-up man and spot closer for the team, took over the ninth inning job early on and never looked back. He finished the regular season with 32 saves, a 2.37 ERA (2.25 FIP), and 62 strikouts in 60.2 innings of work. He posted a rock solid 48.8 GB%, a meager 3.7% HR/FB, and had a manager’s dreamlike 80.7% LOB. Now he takes his game to the playoffs where his mettle will be further tested as he will be relied upon to be the team’s stopper on baseball’s biggest stage. All the while, likely sitting in the back of his mind, his impending free agency looms. That’s quite a load for anyone to handle. But while all that is fine and dandy for those that live in the real world, we’re still living in a fantasy baseball world here and what Madson owners everywhere want to know is — where will he land next season and will he remain a closer?
One would have to think that Madson’s performance in the playoffs this year will strongly impact where and in what position he ends up. Not that this is, by any means his first post-season run, but it is his first run as the team’s ninth inning man. Obviously there is pressure to come in as a reliever in the 7th and 8th innings, but taking center stage to close out ball games is a different story. Just ask Madson who actually had a few failed attempts as the team’s closer during the regular seasons back in 2009 and 2010. How well he performs could mean the difference between two or three teams calling and ten. And that right there could mean the difference between $5M per and $9M per depending on who comes knocking.
With at least half a dozen teams likely to be in the market for a closer this offseason, not counting the Phillies who will probably do whatever they can to retain the 31 year old’s services, fantasy owners stand a pretty good chance at watching him land somewhere with a ninth inning job in hand. Few teams can afford (read: would be willing to pay) that kind of annual salary to a middle reliever, and in looking at the potential pool of free agent relievers available, Madson looks to be a fairly hot commodity if he, at the very least, maintains his current level of performance. Few players on that list would be ranked ahead of his, talent-wise.
But then again, you never know what some teams are willing to do to fortify their bullpen regardless of who they still have on staff. Rafael Soriano went from being one of the top closers with immense fantasy value in 2010 to late round handcuff for those that owned Mariano Rivera. Granted, that might not be the norm, but it’s always a possibility.
So for now, as fans of the game and fantasy owners who have just wrapped up their season, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the playoffs. If the upcoming rounds of action are anything close to what these lat two night of baseball were, then we’re all in for quite a ride. But just keep in mind, that once that World Series trophy is awarded to someone, it’s right back to business. Regardless of his talents and what he’s done in the past, Madson’s future fantasy value is going to come down to this one month and where he ultimately lands this winter.