The last team that Ryan Madson pitched for was the Philadelphia Phillies, but could it also be the next team he plays for? Madson, who has not pitched the last two seasons, held a public workout today with the Phillies among the teams that watched Madson throw. He missed the 2012 season with the Cinncinnati Reds due to needing Tommy John Surgery, and then missed 2013 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim because he was still recovering. However, that should not scare the Phillies away from Madson, as their bullpen needs help.
The Phillies did try to re-sign Madson after the 2011 season to be their closer of the future. However, the two sides could not agree to a deal, and the team went on to sign Johnathan Papelbon. Before all of this, Madson was one of the top relievers in the league. Before he took the closer spot from Brad Lidge in 2011, Madson was “The Bridge to Lidge” during the team’s 2008 championship season. His transition from top setup man to top closer is one of the reasons that the Phillies did not want him to walk after 2011. Since Madson has only pitched for the Phillies in his career, it would provide the reliever with familiarity should he return to Philadelphia.
While it does need to be taken into account that Madson is on his way back from Tommy John Surgery, the procedure has a high success rate of about 85%. It could be argued that since Madson still has not recovered that his surgery was not a success. However, the recovery from Tommy John Surgery can take up to 18 months and it has now been 22 months since Madson had the procedure. His health should be back to how it was before the injury, but it remains to be seen if he has fully recovered yet. The fact is that it has been nearly two years since the procedure means that it is now make or break time for Madson to show he can pitch in the majors again.
When he was with the Phillies before, Madson made use of a four-seam fastball that could at times range from the mid to high 90s, a circle changeup as his off-speed pitch, and a cutter. One thing that the team would keep an eye on after watching Madson pitch is the velocity of his fastball. Considering that Papelbon lost 3 MPH last season on his fastball, the Phillies would not want to add another pitcher who lost some velocity. If Madson is back up to par, then the Phillies would get a reliever who averages 68 strikeouts and a 3.32 ERA (stats don’t includes Madson’s 2003 season, where he only pitched two perfect innings).
Since Madson has missed the previous two seasons, he would likely have to sign an incentive-laden minor league contract. This means that whichever team signs him, such as the Phillies, would be paying very little to see if he can return to form. This has the potential for a high reward for the Phillies should Madson pitch the way he did during his previous tenure with the team. Unless Madson is far away from being back in the shape he was before, it makes a lot of sense for the Phillies to give him a chance to make the team.
Considering they are giving Bobby Abreu a chance, there is no reason they should not do the same for Madson.
A bonus to having Madson on the team is that he is a good clubhouse guy. During his previous tenure, Madson could be seen having a laugh with his fellow bullpen pitchers, or celebrating a win with whipped cream to the face of the interviewee. He no doubt is still friends with plenty of his former teammates who would welcome him back. In other words, he is worth the low risk.