Thinking Out Loud: Ryan Madson


(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

January has a way of making baseball fans go a little crazy, as the hot stove cools down while the light at the end of the offseason tunnel isn’t bright enough to start counting down the days just yet. We pass the days with trade ideas that will never materialize and by dissecting every last inch of the roster just in case we missed something the first three times we did it. The Yankees roster is set for the most part, aside from the bench and maybe another starting pitcher, so forgive me as I throw something against the wall: the Yankees should look into signing Ryan Madson as a starter.

Madson, as you know, is hung out to dry as a free agent closer at the moment, sorta like Rafael Soriano was last winter. Both are Scott Boras clients too, so they have more than one thing in comment. Unlike Soriano though, no one will have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Madson, who is one of those funny Modified Type-A Free Agents per the new CBA. He also doesn’t have the same history of elbow problems, though Madson is no stranger to the DL himself. He missed about four weeks this past season with a hand contusion, about two months last year after he broke his toe kicking a chair, and another two months in 2007 with a shoulder strain.

So Madson is just sitting out there begging to be signed. Just about every big market team has an established closer, so the demand for his services doesn’t appear to be great. Please note that we said the same exact thing about Soriano at this time last year. There has been speculation that he might be willing to take a one-year deal in hopes of hitting free agency next offseason as the top free agent closer, but nothing more concrete than that. Boras has gone for these “pillow contracts” before, namely with Adrian Beltre and Carlos Pena, and he knows that he and his client would make a ton more money if he hits free agency as an effective starter next year. Just watch what Edwin Jackson (another Boras guy!) will get compared to what the Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon this winter.

Madson, 30, has the requisite three pitches to start, though he doesn’t use his slider all that much in relief. He’s a fastball-changeup specialist like Ricky Romero, Jeremy Hellickson, and Jaime Garcia. Those three rely on their top two offerings heavily and mix in a breaking ball roughly 8-10% of the time. Madson has started before, all throughout the minors and for 17 generally ugly starts in 2006, so he has some experience in the role. He hasn’t been over 100 IP since 2006, but 30-year-old pitchers are well past the point of coddling. Fatigue down the stretch would be an obvious concern, but I think that applies to all pitchers these days. I don’t put too much stock into this stuff, but he has pitched in a small park and in the playoffs and World Series and all that. Can’t hurt.

The table to the right shows Madson’s semi-projected stats as a starter using his last three seasons and the Rule of 17. Walk rate has historically held constant when moving between roles, but strikeout rate, homer rate (in terms of homers per plate appearances with contact), and BABIP all decline by approximately 17% with the move into the rotation. That projected performance — 22.3 K%, 6.5 BB%, 2.9 HR%, and .360 BABIP — is right in line with what CC Sabathia (23.4 K%, 6.2 BB%, 2.5 HR%) and Felix Hernandez (23.0 K%, 7.0 BB%, 2.8 HR/9) did in 2011, save that sky-high BABIP (.318 and .307, respectively). Now I highly doubt Madson would turn into another CC or Felix if he’s plugged into the rotation, but the point is that he’s an elite reliever that figures to be a pretty good starter even though his perfprmance will take a hit with the transition.

Like I said, I’m just thinking out loud here. If Boras and Madson are willing to take a straight one-year deal with no options for like, $8-10M, then I think I’d prefer to see the Yankees go this route rather than sink multiple years or too many prospects into Edwin Jackson or Matt Garza or someone like that. Theoretically, if it doesn’t work out, you can just dump him in the bullpen for the remainder of the season and employ the world’s most overqualified sixth inning guy (though Madson is better than either Soriano or David Robertson in my eyes). The odds of a move like this happening are basically zero though, especially since the Yankees already have a prime bullpen-to-rotation candidate that they’ve decided not to employ. It’s probably just the crazy January air talking, but Madson as a starter makes a tiny bit of sense for both parties.

Categories : Hot Stove League
  • mark

    Robertson had a pretty good year last year.

  • Soriano Is A Liar

    He’d have to give up 46…

  • ADam

    Maybe Randy can give Madson 4 years 60 million….

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    It would be nice to have him as a starter if he accepts a one year deal for 8-10 million. First, I do not think he will accept that salary. Second: that would put the Yankees near the 210M that they are trying to avoid. I won’t waste more time on the Boone Logan as a starter theme any more.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      Like I said last night, while I don’t think it would work out, I’d rather read you defending an actual original out-of-the-box thought than the same rehashed troll banter on how the team’s not doing enough, etc.

  • American Horror Story


    • jsbrendog

      i endorse this guy’s sentiments, not his use of capital letters

      • thenamestsam

        Or the hashtags. Twitter is an amazing time killer but its spawning of the whole hashtag thing has to be one of the worst unintended consequences of all time.

  • CP

    I believe that the ‘Rule of 17′ says his starter BABIP should be .325, not .360:

    Basically, use the “rule of 17”: difference in BABIP is 17 points higher as starter. K/PA is 17% higher as reliever. And HR per contacted PA is 17% higher as starter. Walk rate is FLAT.

    A .325 BABIP as a starter and .308 at a reliever seems much more reasonable than jumping to .360 – a level that no pitcher with more than 65 IP was at last year.

  • Luisergi

    Mike it seems like you’re obsessed with Joba to the rotation (i`m too)
    and this post is some sort of reflect of that.
    I think this is just overanalizing stuff. If Cashman is not gonna move Joba, or D-Rob (or both!! for that matter) to the rotation when he has those two arms under a cheap contract, he is not gonna sign some guy (no matter how good of a closer) for 10M to see if he can start again. I don’t think anybody would do it…

    As i said, if he was going to move a set up man to the rotation (whch he isn’t) he would, and should, use the guys he already has.

    Greetings from La Ciudad de México. i don´t know anybody else here who reads this site (wich is awesome by the way, makes my day at the office much better), but at least you guys have one loyal visitor south of the border.

    • J.R.

      I think one thing that you are missing is that both Joba and D-Rob are under team control for up to 3 years.

      If Cashman believed that moving them to the rotation could hurt them long term he has a disincentive to do it. Whereas with Madson he would be under a one year contract and if it causes long term problems to him it isnt an issue for the Yankees.

      • Luisergi

        I hear you…
        First of all, as many have pointed here, Madson is not taking a 1yr deal to start, why would he?? 1yr to start and he sucks, or blows his arm?? i just don’t see it happening. He’d command 4 years to take this i think, and for 4 years u’re better suited with E.Jax. (i’m not saying they should sign him, just to give some perspective)

        On the other hand, Joba is recovering from TJS, i mean how much hurt could he get, you may just give it a try out of the rotation, as has been mentionated many times here.

        With Robertson you’d be just doing what the Red Sox are with Bard… Ideal??? of course not, the healt point u made is pretty solid. but i’d rather do that than sign Madson.

  • CJ

    A straight one year 8-10 contract? Seriously? Start by offering 4/48, and madson will kick the idea around. He is going to get a contract, minimum 3/25.

    • dan

      From who?

      • jsbrendog


        • CJ

          He will get paid and get a 3 year plus deal. From who? I don’t know but there didn’t seem to be a market for Soriano last year and he got his. 3/25 Minimum, if I had to pick a team I’ll say Angels, Reds, Nationals.

  • Monteroisdinero

    A starter with 3 excellent pitches and one of them is a changeup? I like it. Injuries seem a non-issue going forward.

  • CJ

    “Sure, it’s always been my dream to wear the Yankee pinstripes. I’ll do anything to play in a winning team even if that means converting from successful closer to starter with no guaranteed contract. Any risk of injury will be outweighed by the opportunity to say “I played for the Yankees.”

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    It’s tempting, but what does it really do for the team, or Madson, if it didn’t work out? Keep the money.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    Definitely out-of-the-box thinking. It’s an intriguing idea. And since it costs only money, I’d be OK with it if the Yankees decided to do something like that (I’ll make sure I tell Cashman as much when he calls me. :-) ). I can’t see this happening at all, but it would be great if some GMs had an original idea or 2. Not complaining at all about Cashman, and I would also be fine if the Yankees do no more than fill out the bench this offseason as I think they’ve got some very good prospects just wating for an opportunity, but it is great to hear some unique speculatation about what they could do.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      Yes. Again, I’d rather throw this around than read gloom and doom scenarios.

  • jsbrendog

    thn only injury he had was the shoulder, the rest sounds just like being a dumbass, kicking a chair and a hand contusion. how did it happen? trying to field a groundball or punching a wall (his wife)?

  • Mister Delaware

    Eh, if you look at his Pitch F/X, his fastball plays up a lot, like 4 mph. For a fastball/changeup guy, just a little lost separation could end up being huge.

  • JoeMoes

    To much of a risk for madson. If he has a bad year as a starter ruins him for a deal in offseason he’d have to have a special contract 1/10million is first part and then another 10million for the next year if he doesn’t finish year in rotation by august due to performance and that’s how it gets guaranteed giving him security if he fails as a starter other then that I see no reason for him to risk something he’s good at.

  • Mantle28

    Where does the rule of 17 come from? What are prior examples of it coming in to effect?

    • vin

      Click the link in the post.

  • MannyGeee

    while i like the concept, i have to agree that Madson has ZERO incentive to do this.

    • Mister Delaware

      You can’t say there’s zero incentive when CJ Wilson just got offered nearly $100MM.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        A successful year closing, which Madson already knows he can do, will get him close to half of that. That $100 million you speak of would occur 1) if this worked, 2) it worked for at least a couple of years, 3) he could turn himself three years younger.

        • Mister Delaware

          He just had a successful year closing and doesn’t appear to be getting close to half of that.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        It also depends on what he’s offered as a closer (or setup man). He might consider it if there are no good offers for him in his current role.

        • Mister Delaware

          Right. I don’t think its the right move for him and can’t imagine he’ll actually go that route, but its not zero percent logical as stated.

      • MannyGeee

        i thought about that 7 seconds after submitting the comment. Youre right, there is more employment out there for an mediocre-to-good starter than for a good-to-very good closer.

        I think the better statement would have been: The risk reward is waaaaaaaaaay high for Madson, especially as an established closer.

        • Mister Delaware

          Yeah, that was basically my only point. Not that Madson should make the move, but that its inherent that the market will always be largest for an SP.

        • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

          Its higher, but just because he’s not extremely successful as a starter, doesn’t mean teams won’t still value him has an established closer. Just look at what happened with Phil and Joba. As soon as they saw promise there, it was always a given that going back to the bullpen would be a no brainer if starting didn’t work out.

  • Bon Scott

    Axisa, you would take a chance of Madson not working out, but are against Oswalt? Hypocritical much?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      How many degenerative discs are in Madson’s back?

      • Mister Delaware

        How do you know Madson has no degenerative disks, Mike? Have you ever seen his medicals? Are you his doctor?


        • jsbrendog


        • Ted Nelson

          Mike asked how many. He didn’t say he knows for a fact Madson has no back problems. So… that’s not how that works.

          It’s completely different to say Madson has shown no signs of serious injury risk than to… say you know what a teams draft board looked like, say you know what a private company’s financials look like to a T, say you know what a guy who was injured 3 years ago’s chances of injury are for the next three years…

          • CJ

            So complicated.

            • Cris Pengiucci

              Clear as a bell to me. Ted just replied with a more detailed explanation than I would have (though about replying, but Ted beat me to it).

          • Mister Delaware

            I do know what a private company’s financials look like to a T.

            • Ted Nelson

              Good for you.

      • Bon Scott

        How many starts per season has Oswalt averaged his career? How many big league games has Madson started?

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          So I shouldn’t worry about his back because of what he was doing 5-6 years ago? Get me Randy Johnson in that case.

          • Bon Scott

            Pitchers can have success with a bad back, ala David Wells. I’m just saying if you are willing to try a closer at starter and risk having it turn into a disaster, why not a proven #2 guy?

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              There are far more pitchers that had zero success with a bad back.

            • Ted Nelson

              Ironically David Wells is also an example of a reliever who became a successful starter. I don’t know if Madson can or can’t succeed as a starter, but it’s certainly possible.

              “Bad back” is a pretty nebulous term. One guy’s “bad back” and another guy’s “bad back” might be two completely different stories. Granted, the Yankees failed to properly assess a bad back just one year ago. Without knowing the relative risk, though, it’s hard to urge a team to just jump right in and take it.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      I think “thinking out loud” appropriately reflected his approach to the topic. Lighten up. It must be tough knowing “Back in Black” is one of the five best selling albums of all time.

      • Bon Scott

        Highway to Hell is better.

    • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

      You should really learn the difference between “inconsistent” and “hypocritical”.

      • Bon Scott

        You really should get out of your mom’s basement.

        • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

          Somehow you turned this into a +1.

  • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

    mmm…crazy January air….tastes like MDMA

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Hmmm …. If others feel the same way (how do you know what MDMA tastes like? ;-) ), wonder what it’s like walking around the streets of NY (assuming that’s where you are), a mass orgy breaking out?

  • CJ

    Angels, reds or nationals will pay madson at least 3/25 to close or set up.

    • MannyGeee

      funny, I was going to say that Madson feels like a Cubbies move. Come Feb 15th if no one has grabbed him I could see Theo signing him for 2/15 and bumping Marmol to the 8th.

      • CJ

        I read theyre thinking about
        Moving marmol who makes $7m +. theo looks like he’s gutting that team to start from scratch.

  • CJ

    I could also see madson going to the stupid orioles. They enjoy making moves and spending decent money without really committing to improving the club.

  • Gonzo

    Don’t show this to Levine. He’ll probably think that he can sell him as a starter then flip him to the pen in spring training.


  • CJ

    How does Texas have si much success with moving pitchers between starter and reliever? CJ Wilson, Ogando Feldman now Feliz. It’s a gutsy move, I wonder if it’s courage, talent evaluation, or preparation and player management. Texas is a smart, innovative organization. Jon Daniels is the new Theo.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Are you aware that Jon Daniels traded Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton?

      I can’t imagine your reaction if Cashman did that, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be calling him the new Theo.

      • CJ

        Mike Napoli-push

  • Bubba

    What are you crazy Mike? No one knows where Randy Levine is. Mentioning Madson without knowing where Levine is is like saying Candyman in the mir

  • RetroRob

    Interesting idea from the Yankees perspective, but I don’t see Boras going for it unless the Yankees were to give a three-year contract (with, of course, the standard Randy Levine opt outs).

    Starters certainly make more than relievers, but not in all cases. A qulaity reliever/closer will make more than a mediocre (and certainly poor) starter with only a single season as a starter under his belt. Even if he does okay, he won’t have a track record to show he can handle the workload as a starter, which will impact his contract. CJ Wilson did wonders by putting up back-to-back quality seasons. If he hit the market after 2010, he’d have made less and for fewer years. Madson would be facing that scenario, and he’d have to bank on having a good year as a starter. Too many questions and too much risk for Boras. It’s better to remain “clean” and re-enter the market again after 2012 as a reliever. If he’s resonable on what he wants on a one-year contract, there will be teams who will replace their current closer with Madson.

    There is one problem I can see developing. 2012 might end up like 2011. Already it looks like Madson and K-Rod will be re-entering, and if Soriano has a good season, he will consider tripping his opt-out clause. Boras also knows that he’d have two of his clients (Madson and Soriano) potentially on the markeet at the same time, something he may not want to do.