In the closer’s market game of musical chairs, Red Sox may hold the last chair

The closer market has moved fast and furious during this MLB off-season but as the Hot Stove starts to simmer the music is getting slower and there are less chairs to choose from.  Scott Boras, agent for Ryan Madson who looks to be the last big ticket closer on the market, defiantly said that he always has a chair at the end of the game but he did not say exactly how big or expensive that chair would be.

Phillies' signing of Papelbon started the domino effect

It was a cruel twist of fate that has led Madson to being the last high priced free agent standing in the closers market.  Madson thought that he had a 4 year deal worth about 44 million agreed upon with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro.  Apparently having a successful season as closer for the N.L. East winning Phillies wasn’t enough for Phillies ownership, who wanted a bigger splash.  That bigger splash was former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a 4 year 52 million contract with a 5th year option shortly after the deal with Madson fell through.  And thus the game of musical closers began with the Red Sox seat opening up and the Phillies seat being taken out of the game.

Heath Bell signed with the Marlins and the Marlins took their chair out of the game.  San Diego, who lost Bell, traded for Rockies’ closer Huston Street, quickly taking their chair out of the game.  37-year old Joe Nathan bolted Minnesota to sign a multi-year deal with Texas, replacing closer Neftali Feliz who will become a starter.  Minnesota re-signed Matt Capps, who was Nathan’s injury replacement.  Texas and Minnesota were out of the game.  Fransisco Rodriguez simply took himself out of the game by accepting arbitration from the Milwaukee Brewers and will presumably set up for closer John Axford, as he did for the last half of 2011.  The Mets decided to go closer by committee, signing Frank Fransisco and Jon Rauch from the Blue Jays and trading for Giants set-up man and former Sox pitcher Ramon Ramirez.  The Blue Jays responded by trading for Sergio Santos from the White Sox.  Got all of it so far?

After Philly pulled his deal, Madson has become the odd man out

Now after all that there seems to be four chairs left in the game.  The Red Sox, who lost Papelbon, the White Sox, who lost Santos, the Rockies, who traded Street, and the Reds, whose 2011 closer Fransisco Cordero is unsigned.  The White Sox are rebuilding and will likely look for closing options from within so they might not even have a chair.  Among the players left still playing the game are Madson, Cordero, Madson’s set-up man a year ago Brad Lidge, and possibly Athletics closer Andrew Bailey.  The Rockies will seek a cheap replacement for Street and Lidge, who is a Denver native, may be their best bet.  That leaves the Reds and Red Sox.  Fransisco Cordero is 36 and will probably have to settle for a set-up role, leaving the two vacancies open for Madson.  So it should come down to a bidding war between the Reds and Red Sox right?  It’s not so easy.  The Sox are content to sit and play the market.  The Reds aren’t exactly a big market team who shells out big contracts to free agents, even if they handed Cordero a 4 year 46 million contract before the 2008 season.  They are more concerned with keeping their own guys such as 2B Brandon Phillips.  Also there is the possibility of either team seeking a trade for A’s closer Bailey.  At this point all that Boras and Madson can do is wait while one of the two teams folds and realizes they need a closer and offers him that big contract.  And if that doesn’t happen?

There is precedent for this, both with the Red Sox and Boras.  In 2010 Boras’ once prized free agent Adrian Beltre was coming off of a subpar stint with the Seattle Mariners.  Beltre signed a one year deal

Boras will try and work his magic for Madson

on short money with the Red Sox to re-establish his value.  The deal worked in theory for both sides, with Beltre netting a 5 year deal from the Rangers and the Red Sox moving on to Adrian Gonzalez in his spot in the lineup.  Boras can approach the Sox with a similar deal for Madson, who is a year older than Papelbon and can do wonders for his value if he proves he can succeed in the A.L. East, in the pressure cooker that is Boston.  He would still have at least a three year deal on the table presumably since he will be a year younger than Heath Bell was when he hit free agency.  Of course the Red Sox could opt to try and sign him long term or they can look elsewhere for a closer.  On the other hand the Red Sox could get cold feet from looking content with going into the season with what they have (virtually no one) and offer the multi-year deal to Madson.  They could also trade for Andrew Bailey, leaving Madson in the lurch.

For now it looks as if the game of musical chairs will continue.  The music will stop eventually but not until the players have tried all of the tricks that they have up their sleeves.  When you are dealing with Scott Boras and the Red Sox front office, expect plenty of tricks.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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