The Blue Jays were already rumored to be limited in their bullpen pursuit, but Ryan Madson‘s new three-year deal could thin their market even further
The free agent relief market looks ready to unravel as the MLB Winter Meetings open in Nashville and the Blue Jays have multiple holes to address. Darren O’Day is reportedly a passed physical away from a four-year, $31 million deal to stay with the Baltimore Orioles, a deal which represents his expected value fairly well. Ryan Madson‘s three-year deal with the Oakland Athletics, however, could inflate the market levels at which Toronto planned on targeting.
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After three full years out of baseball from 2012-2014, Madson burst back into the league with the Kansas City Royals this past season posting a 2.13 ERA over 63.1 innings. With a career-low WHIP and excellent control, Madson established himself as a marquee name, albeit risky, atop the B-level of relief options. Many expected a deal close to, or just north of $5 million annually, likely on a one-year contract with an option or two years guaranteed.
Instead, the A’s handed Madson a three-year contract worth $22 million. That’s $7.33 million per season guaranteed on average, but according to Jon Heyman, this deal also comes with incentives for games finished. These $1.25 million annual incentives can give this contract a maximum value of $25.75 million.
It’s a great day for Madson, but some of the loudest cheers will come from the agents and players that rank alongside or just below Madson on the free agent market. Mark Lowe is nearing a two-year deal with Detroit according to Jerry Crasnick while Joakim Soria has fetched himself a three-year, $25 million deal from the Royals. With this, other potential back-end arms like Tyler Clippard or even pitchers on the Jonathan Broxton level should see their value bumped.
We’re living in an MLB market where a lot of teams are buying. Major League organizations continue to rake in money at record rates while the second wild card spot has given each club the hope that they’re one or two moves away. This has quickly shrunk the group of bottom-dwellers in the league, and expedited the “rebuilding” processes of teams like the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Mixed with the already-expensive nature of free agency, there won’t be many bargains found.
This Madson deal represents a market that could spend the next two weeks turning $3 million arms into $4.2 million arms. Turning two-year contract arms into three-year arms, and so forth. Organizations will have the choice to either adapt or go without, so given the assumed budget limitations and the likelihood that Mark Shapiro would prefer to follow a set plan, Toronto might be left looking at a rather unappealing group of names.
Once we get to the C-level of the relief market, which for the sake of conversation we’ll call the $1-2 million arms, teams are often better off swinging on the waiver wire or churning through minor deals to find an equal value. Perhaps this points to the trade market being a more viable avenue for relief help?
Toronto does have the luxury of relative excess in left field and at first base. The quality won’t knock anyone off their feet and that depth can be just as valuable right where it is, but the quantity is available, and when paired along with what remains in the minor league system, this could be a more economic way of rebuilding a tattered bullpen. Unless a contract is moved or something changes quickly, deals like Madson’s could take Toronto out of the financial B-level fairly quickly.