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01/20/12 10:36 PM EST
Reds, closer Madson complete one-year deal
Cincinnati fills one of biggest needs in snagging free agent
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Going into this offseason, there were few indications that the Reds and free-agent closer Ryan Madson would be a match. The club has been watching its budget closely for years and Madson was seeking a large multiyear deal. Yet on Friday, Madson was officially signed and sealed as the new closer in Cincinnati. After Madson passed a physical, the two sides finalized a one-year contract that will pay the right-hander $6 million in 2012. There is an $11 million mutual option for 2013 that carries a $2.5 million buyout. Some of the money in the deal will be deferred. "It was an interesting offseason, as everybody knows," Madson said on a media conference call. "The opportunity came late. It was for the role I wanted, to close, which were few and far between at that time. To get the opportunity to close and close for a team that has a really good chance to be in the playoffs, that's where you want to be as a player." A deal was first agreed to on Jan. 10, but Madson was away on vacation and could not get to Cincinnati for the physical until Friday. There was initially a cavalcade of closers on the open market this winter, including former Reds closer Francisco Cordero. Early on, Madson was close to signing a reported four-year, $44 million deal to return to the Phillies before the club decided to sign Jonathan Papelbon instead. Then both the Reds and Madson waited, and waited. Madson and agent Scott Boras were hoping to get another multiyear deal. The Reds simply let the market come to them after several other closers found jobs. Finally, it was down to Cordero and Madson. The Reds had maintained a dialogue all offseason with Cordero, who was also seeking a multiyear contract. But Reds general manager Walt Jocketty was not willing to go beyond a one-year deal with an option. As Cordero's side balked at the offer, the Reds turned around and commenced serious talks with Madson and Boras. "What made him appealing is his price came way down," Jocketty said late Friday. "We tried hard for Cordero. The Madson deal we didn't start to do until late. It got done in four or five days at the most. We thought it was a better fit for us for one year, maybe more. We'll see." With the one-year contract, Madson could have the opportunity to reenter the free-agent market and try his luck next winter if the option isn't picked up. "I'm very excited to come and start a new chapter," said Madson, who made $4.8 million last season with Philadelphia. "I just want to bring all the energy and the winning and anything as a small part of me to the team and continue that. I know it's a great bunch of guys. I've faced them for a while. I could use a break from [facing] a lot of those guys." Jocketty didn't rule out exploring a contract extension for Madson before the new contract is up. "We'll see how he likes it here and where we are with our payroll going forward," Jocketty said. "We'll have an open mind." The 31-year-old Madson was 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 32 saves in 34 chances in 2011, his first full year as the Phillies' closer. In 60 2/3 innings, he allowed 54 hits and 16 walks (including eight intentional) while striking out 62. Madson finished the season with 17 consecutive scoreless appearances, a stretch that included nine saves. Of his 62 appearances, 53 were scoreless outings. "I was taking the pressure off of myself and giving it to the hitter," Madson said. "That's a big thing in the ninth inning if you can do that. That was a big difference for me -- trusting my stuff and not trying to be perfect. I knew when to throw strikes and when not to throw strikes. But I can't give you all my secrets." A former setup man, Madson first took over as closer on a limited basis for an injured Brad Lidge in 2009-10. In 2010, Madson had 10 save chances and only converted five of them. "I thought I was going to be perfect and I rushed into it. That's not how you do it, as I learned," Madson said. "I had some really smart baseball people tell me that's not the way to do it. Once I tried it their way, it worked for me and it worked all year. I was very comfortable with that idea and just ran with it." Although Cordero was coming off a very strong year for Cincinnati and had 37 saves in 43 chances, the expectation is that Madson will be an upgrade as closer. Madson is over five years younger than Cordero and averages more strikeouts. Cordero's strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio dipped to 5.4 last season while Madson was at 9.2. Cordero gave up fewer hits last season, however. Madson is also postseason tested and appeared in the World Series for the Phillies in 2008-09. His former home stadium, Citizens Bank Park, is small and hitter friendly like his new dwelling, Great American Ball Park. Last season, Madson gave up only two homers, with one of them coming at home. Of the four long balls he surrendered in 2010, just one came at home. He's allowed four homers in Cincinnati over his career. "It's normal once you're around something enough," Madson said of small ballparks. "You know it's going to happen eventually, as far as the home runs. It's one of those things where you have to make pitches. The results you can't control. All you can control is the pitch you're going to make. Then go from there." Madson is just one of several additions that the recently aggressive Reds have made in an attempt to become the favorites in the National League Central in 2012. In December, Jocketty parted with four players -- including prized prospect Yonder Alonso -- to acquire starting pitcher Mat Latos from the Padres. The club also moved three players, including starter Travis Wood, to get top lefty setup man Sean Marshall from the Cubs. And this week, the Reds agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.5 million deal with outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Friday was a whirlwind day as Madson flew to Cincinnati from Philadelphia to take his physical, and flew back. There was a brief stop for a private chat in the office of team CEO Bob Castellini, who gave Madson some Reds caps and a tie. "I left there with a very good feel and was very excited to start Spring Training already," Madson said.