Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 12/6/11

Could Ryan Madson unexpectedly return to the Phillies for one more season?

Jayson Stark wrote on Tuesday afternoon that there is “lots of buzz” at the Winter Meetings that perhaps free agent closers Ryan Madson and Francisco Rodriguez would accept arbitration after failing to secure long-term paydays.

The deadline to accept arbitration is tomorrow.

Let’s address the key questions…

Why would Madson unexpectedly accept?

Well, because with the Blue Jays trading for Sergio Santos (great deal for Toronto), one less team will spend for a closer. Stark narrowed the list of teams needing closers to: the Padres, Reds, Mets, Angels and Red Sox, and perhaps the Rays and Rangers if “it’s the right guy.”

The Padres and Mets wouldn’t sign Madson, it doesn’t make sense with what they’re trying to do in the next three years and doesn’t fit into their payroll. It’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay signing him, either.

So we’re really down to the Reds, Angels, Red Sox and Rangers. The Angels are hung up on C.J. Wilson and don’t have a ton more to spend, so we can probably remove them from the equation. The Reds, Red Sox and Rangers remain legitimate suitors.

But there is a growing sentiment that none of these closers will end up getting the money they want. It happens every winter at one position… guys that think they’ll be paid handsomely end up signing for less than what they were offered a month or two earlier.

Does it make sense for Madson to accept arbitration?

Scott Boras has done this with clients before when he fails to get them their desired contract.

Madson, if he accepts arbitration, would make something like $8-8.5 million in 2012. That’s not a bad salary for a reliever, and Madson could continue to build his resume for teams for the following winter. He wouldn’t be closing for the Phillies, but all 29 other GMs know now that Madson is capable of closing. So it wouldn’t necessarily hurt Madson to accept arbitration.

Could the Phillies make it work financially?

The luxury tax threshold is $178 million. Luxury tax is calculated after the season, so when we make payroll projections we also have to take into account incentives, which could push a team over the threshold. For example, if the Phillies open the 2012 season at $175 million and end up having a Cy Young winner and a Gold Glove winner, that 175 might grow by another million. Plus, the Phillies have tended to add payroll during each of the last several seasons.

If Madson accepts arbitration and makes $8-8.5 million, the Phillies’ payroll would be at about $166 million for 24 players. Jimmy Rollins would still need to be signed.

Assuming the Phils ultimately sign Jimmy to a four-year contract worth approximately $46.5 million, they’d be right over $177 million. It doesn’t matter if a deal is back-loaded because the luxury tax only cares about annual average value. A four-year, $46.5 million deal would be $11.625 million per season.

So the Phillies would be literally right up against the luxury tax and would have no choice but to non-tender Kyle Kendrick and Wilson Valdez, which might seem like a no-brainer to us but the organization truly values both players for their versatility.

The final question becomes…

Would the Phillies exceed the luxury tax threshold?

I can only see them doing so in one particular instance… and that as if Madson accepts arbitration. If Madson accepts and the Phillies end up with an amazingly strong bullpen, it’s not as if they’ll just say… “oop, too bad, not enough money left to fill the shortstop hole.” They will still aggressively pursue Jimmy even if it means going over the tax threshold by a million or two.

Luckily for the Phils, they have filled many minor holes during the winter, lessening the need to fill them in July. They likely won’t have to make trades or add payroll, so you’d imagine that going over the luxury tax for one year under these very strange circumstances would be a necessary concession.

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