With Game 6 and the possible end of the World Series upon us, we're getting awfully close to the start of free agency.
Teams have a five-day window of exclusive negotiations with their free agents after the end of the World Series, which means that the doors will be flung open to everyone at some point early next week. And that means we'll start to have some idea about whether or not the Phillies are going to bring Ryan Madson back as their closer.
If Madson does leave, Ruben Amaro, Jr. has made it known that he wants a "proven" closer to replace him. (Of course not everyone agrees with Amaro's opinion.) That's a strange point of view given how well Madson did when finally given the opportunity, but Amaro's the guy calling the shots. If there's no trust in the in-house candidates to fill the job, Amaro is going to sign or trade for a veteran to replace him. The trade market is hard to project at this moment in time, but we can take a look at who might be available as a free agent.
Jonathan Papelbon: If Madson costs too much, you can cross Paps off the list. He'll cost more and it isn't all that clear that he's actually a better fit for the job. With Daniel Bard spitting the bit in September, Papelbon's chances of staying in Boston look pretty good.
Heath Bell: It was surprising that the Padres didn't deal Bell before the trade deadline, a decision they likely regretted the moment Bell said he might take arbitration to remain in San Diego. They want the draft picks, but might have to punt them to ensure they don't get saddled with a big salary. Bell is 34 and wasn't quite as good in 2011 as he'd been in the past, making a multi-year commitment a shaky call.
Francisco Cordero: Cordero turned in a better season for the Reds in 2011 than he had in 2010, although it came with a giant red flag. His strikeout rate cratered (7.3 per nine to 5.4), and he'll be 37 in May which makes you think that won't be a one-year blip. Cordero generated a lot of groundballs and did well in a hitter-friendly park, but the thought of further regression would make anything other than a one-year deal quite unwise.
Francisco Rodriguez: The best thing about signing K-Rod would be forcing Mets fans to watch him nail down games for the Phillies. The big question is how many games he'd actually be nailing down. He's done an admirable job of reinventing himself in the face of a declining fastball, but he still needs some heat to make his other pitches work. If he keeps moving in the wrong direction that will likely stop happening. Would you make the bet that he'll put off that decline for several more years?
Joe Nathan: The Twins declined his option on Tuesday, making the longtime Minnesota closer a free agent. He's had arm problems and is no spring chicken, but on a one-year, incentive-heavy deal, he'd make sense if the Phillies are open to seeing if Antonio Bastardo, Philippe Aumont or some other young arms could also serve as a closer.
Jonathan Broxton: Broxton missed most of the Dodgers season with an elbow injury and he wasn't very good in the second half of 2010, so there are some serious red flags to worry about. He'd be the cheapest guy on this list as a result, but elbow injuries for guys who are totally reliant on the fastball are particularly terrifying.
Matt Capps: Couldn't hold the closer job in Minnesota last year, making it two bad years in the last three for Capps. Paying money for him makes no sense.
Frank Francisco: The most notable thing about Francisco is that he might be a huge reason why the Rangers win the World Series. The fact that he'd be that reason because they traded him for Mike Napoli should tell you everything you need to know about Francisco as a pitcher.
Looking at this group, keeping Madson is the best choice. Heck, he might be everyone's first choice out of that list of pitchers.
It is hard to imagine the Phillies coming out of losing Madson looking good if Amaro insists on picking a guy simply because of the vagaries of the save rule. His assessment of the other choices on the Phillies being what it is, there's absolutely no reason to go shopping for a lesser version of what you already have on hand.
Madson's credentials don't need much explanation. He was an excellent setup man for years before stepping into the big job this season and handling it quite well. There's no reason why the Phillies would want to get rid of him, especially with their belief in the closer as something that is within a pitcher.
It will come down to dollars, obviously, and the Phillies would be well-advised to invest them in Madson rather than in another pitcher.
READ: Dash Treyhorn's take on the reasonswhy the Phillies should allow Madson to walk.