Detroit Tigers Should Pursue Oft-injured Reliever Ryan Madson


Feb. 21, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Angels pitcher Ryan Madson poses for a portrait during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In a recent mailbag post for CSN Philadelphia, Jim Salisbury stated that the Philadelphia Phillies and Ryan Madson are mutually interested in bringing the right-handed reliever back to the city of brotherly love.

"Yes, sources tell me they do. In fact, I hear that Madson has some interest in rejoining the Phillies, as well. Obviously, he has missed the last two seasons with elbow problems, but at 33 he might be an excellent low-risk, potential high-reward signing. Madson blossomed into one of the best relievers in baseball during his time in Philadelphia — his emergence was huge in winning the 2008 World Series — and is familiar with the organization, its leaders, its medical people and many of the players. We hear Madson will audition for clubs early in the New Year and the Phillies will surely keep tabs on him. He’d probably have to take a minor-league deal and prove himself, but a Philadelphia reunion might serve him and the team well."

Madson signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds two offseasons ago, and a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels last year, but he didn’t pitch in either location due to complications of with his elbow rehab. His last MLB appearance came in October of 2011 — at the end of his eighth full season with the Phillies.

No team that signs him will be fully confident that he’ll either pitch (1) effectively or (2) at all — he hasn’t been healthy in nigh three seasons now — but that also means the cost to sign him will likely be at a bottom-basement rate, possibly even a minor league deal.

It would be really nice if the Tigers could add another reliable reliever or two, but if the $4-8 million required to do that isn’t in the budget, then they should be pursuing more of these lottery ticket arms who could (if healthy and effective) pay dividends later on. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, and Bruce Rondon are all lotter tickts (of sorts). None are “proven” options to fill late-inning roles for the Tigers this season, but all could conceivably do the job if they found their form. The problem Detroit potentially faces, however, is that they don’t currently have enough lottery tickets to ensure (with reasonable optimism) that enough of them are winners.

It wouldn’t make sense for the Tigers to offer a significant guarantee, but minor league contract offer (with incentives) would be a no-brainer, and even a small major league offer could be under consideration. At worst they’d have to bury a couple dead millions inside a relatively ponderous ledger, but at best they’d have a dominating setup man in front of Joe Nathan.

In his last five seasons of actually pitching, Madson posted a 2.89 ERA in 329 innings (with nearly a strikeout an inning), and he’s been a 3.04 ERA reliever for his career. His problem hasn’t been ineffectiveness, it’s been that he can’t get back on the field. He represents a significant injury risk, but at the dollar figures we’re talking about, it’s a risk the Tigers can (and should) afford.