Originally posted on Yankees Unscripted  |  Last updated 11/10/11

On Tuesday, Tim Brown of Yahoo!Sports, tweeted the Philadelphia Phillies had come to an agreement withRyan Madson on a 4-year/$44 million contract with an option for a 5th year at $13million. Yesterday, Jon Heyman reported via Twitter, the same 4-year deal but that the contract stillneeded approval from Phillies President and CEO David Montgomery. Ruben Amaro Jr.,the Phillies general manager certainly believed he had authority to offercontracts as he sees fit? Madson and his agent Scott Boras alsofelt this was the case. Ownership is showing otherwise.

The problem Phillies ownership mayhave with the deal is that there are two prominent and much more experiencedclosers on the market, Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell. Theirexperience, success and previous pay scale actually better fit the contract termsoffered to Madson. Ownership may be asking Amaro where discussions went withthese two players before they sign off on the Madson deal.

There is much debateover whether closers should be offered this sum of money and lengthycontracts. In my opinion, even Papelbon and Bell should not receivefour-year deals. Closers come and go. The fluctuation of the position is veryvolatile. We see it every year when a closer is hurt or under performing. On comes the next guyin line and he runs away with the role.

While I do not agree with the contractlength, let’s say that the dollar amount per season is representative of theirworth. How do the three players stack up against each other? The tables belowrepresent the last three seasons for each player.

Ryan Madson
Year Age ERA G SV IP WHIP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB2009 28 3.26 79 10 77.1 1.228 0.8 2.6 9.1 3.552010 29 2.55 55 5 53.0 1.038 0.7 2.2 10.9 4.922011 30 2.37 62 32 60.2 1.154 0.3 2.4 9.2 3.889 Seasons 3.59 491 52 630.0 1.294 0.9 2.7 7.8 2.86 Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.

Heath Bell
Year Age ERA G SV IP WHIP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB2009 31 2.71 68 42 69.2 1.120 0.4 3.1 10.2 3.292010 32 1.93 67 47 70.0 1.200 0.1 3.6 11.1 3.072011 33 2.44 64 43 62.2 1.149 0.6 3.0 7.3 2.438 Seasons 3.06 435 134 482.0 1.197 0.6 3.0 9.2 3.07 Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.
Jonathan Papelbon Year Age ERA G SV IP WHIP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB2009 28 1.85 66 38 68.0 1.147 0.7 3.2 10.1 3.172010 29 3.90 65 37 67.0 1.269 0.9 3.8 10.2 2.712011 30 2.94 63 31 64.1 0.933 0.4 1.4 12.2 8.707 Seasons 2.33 396 219 429.1 1.018 0.6 2.4 10.7 4.43 Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.
The number of saves is irrelevant. There are too many factors in play which determine the number of save chances aplayer receives. It is safe to say closers are expected to suppress or limitdamage when they enter the game. As such, the best closersstrike out a lot of hitters, exhibit very good control and do not allow homeruns. For the most part each of these players has shown this ability druing their careers.

The tables tell us a few things.Papelbon has the most experience closing games. Throughout his career Papelbonhas a far superior WHIP, allowed the least home runs allowed per nine and has the highest SO/9and SO/BB ratios. Papelbon maintains these numbers even with amajor hiccup season in 2010.

Further, the tables tell us thatsomething could be wrong with Bell based on his performance in 2011. His SO/9 ratio fell way off and he gave upmore home runs. Bell is also 33 years old. Madson, in his only season as afull-time closer had very respectable numbers, but at 30 years old won'tget better. He has thrown just over 200 more innings than Papelbon and 148 more than Bell.

The Phillies have created issues ifthey decide to change direction. They have already established they wouldgive a four-year contract to a player who has one year of closing experienceand more miles on his arm. Papelbon is going to want at least $12 million, ifnot $13.5 million or $14 million per season based on his 2011 salary. A smart GM would bringup the 2010 season as cautionary and possibly keep the salary on the lowerend of the scale. Bell would probably have to be satisfied with a similar deal offered toMadson considering his age and evident drop-off last season. Prior to the offer made to Madson, I don't think Bell would have gotten more than $10 million per season.

Amaro, in an effort to solidify a priority jumped the gun onMadson's deal in terms of salary and length. He could have offered Madsona three-year $27 million dollar deal. This would have almost doubledMadson's annual salary and shown faith in the player. Such a deal equates to $14 million less than the total Madson was offered, not including the option year. What if ownership believes Amaro's estimate on Madson is sound, butwould rather have Papelbon? They are looking at a $48-$56 million contract overthe same duration. Either way, the Phillies overpay and over commit. Sometimes it is best to let the market come to you versus create the market too quickly. Ruben Amaro Jr. may have learned that lesson the hard way.
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