It’s been no secret that lately the New York Yankees had been uncertain about the closer role in 2013. Rafael Soriano‘s opting out really didn’t come as a surprise and Mariano Rivera‘s return after an ACL injury is something on the mind of the Yankees’ front office. We ran into this dilemma before when we put Soriano into the closer’s role and experimented with David Robertson. While Robertson really didn’t get a fair shot at the role with his injury and all, nobody is really sure on whether Joe Girardi will see that role fit for David. So, if the Yankees can’t find or are uncomfortable with an in-house option (namely Rivera returning from injury at 43) for a closer in 2013, then there’s obviously the free agent market.
That’s where we find Ryan Madson.
Even though Madson missed the entirety of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery, he still presents a case that the Yankees should take into consideration. Primarily a set-up man in his career, Madson had pitched in Philadelphia backing Brad Lidge before taking over the closer role himself. Looking back at that 2011 when Madson was the Phillies’ closer, he recorded 32 saves with a 2.37 ERA, a WHIP of 1.15 and had 62 strikeouts in 60.2 innings pitched. Pretty efficient work for that really being his first full year as a closer.
Now Madson is 32 and coming off of a major surgery.
Is this a concern? Well of course. It’s a concern signing any guy because you run that risk of injury later, namely Carl Pavano and Michael Pineda. However, this is a risk worth taking for the Yankees. The only person in this bullpen that could possibly close out games is Robertson, but even then in the little time he had as the closer it was rough. One save, one blown save, one loss, then his injury. After that Robertson would get one more save, but ended up blowing two more.
Still not convinced about Madson? In 2011, he only blew two saves and only gave up one more run, 16, than in 2010 in which he also pitched 7.2 less innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also elevated from 2.21 to 2.37. Needless to say, if this is any indication, it’s rather obvious Madson is a born closer who still has some mid-relief value. Think of it when we got Soriano. He couldn’t pitch in any other inning to save his life but the 9th. With Madson, he still has the same dominance in the 9th like Soriano does, but he comes with a lesser amount of the mid-inning struggles.
Madson has around three to five pitches he’s tossed in the previous years, but has a tendency to throw his fastball as his main pitch. However like Rivera, Madson also makes use of his cutter. Now while it’s not as sharp and prevalent as Rivera’s, it’s still a huge part of his arsenal. The last pitch that Madson uses is his change-up, which has not only been noted as his best pitch, but one of the best pitches in baseball.
Honestly, regardless that Rivera has now pledged to come back in 2013, the Yankees still need to make some kind of offer for Madson. When prices start being a factor, Madson will not break the bank. Based on his previous salaries, he’d probably be in the ballpark of $4-7 million, which is factoring in the injury. Maybe he could be offered a $15-20 for 3-4 years, but that’s all an estimated guess. He’s a decent bullpen arm with 113 holds and 52 saves, a career ERA of 3.60 and is used to pitching in a high pressure city. He’s pretty much the perfect fit for this bullpen.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.