Who’s Worth Pursuing, Papelbon or Madson?


Reports continue to come out that both the Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies are interested in two of the marquee free agent closers this offseason.  Jonathan Papelbon and Ryan Madson are considered two of the best that are available and it turns out that both could be flip flopping clubs next season.

While the Red Sox have yet to make an offer to Papelbon, it appears that the Phillies are in hot pursuit for him.  If they can’t sign Paps then they’ll go after the man who saved games for them last season, Ryan Madson.

So Philly is being the agressor here and they may get the pick of the litter of either Madson or Papelbon.  But who should the Red Sox pursue between the two closers?

Both Papelbon and Madson are the same age, 31-years old.  Madson saved 32 of 34 games last seaon, while Papelbon saved 31 of 34.  Madson had an ERA of 2.37 in 62 appearances last seasons versus Papelbon’s 2.94 ERA in 63 games.  Both are Type A free agents meaning they are eligible for arbitration and could garner draft picks for their former clubs if they sign elsewhere.

It’s been said that the Phills would prefer to re-sign Madson for a few reasons.  The first is the familiarity between Madson and the club which ties into the second reason, clubhouse continuity.  We all know Papelbon is a bit reckless which may rub some people the wrong way.  The third and perhaps the biggest reason is the difference in salary expectation.  Papelbon is seeking Mariano Rivera money, alhtough it’s up for debate as to whether he’ll get it.  Madson on the other hand may land in that $8-10 million per season range, a far better bargain than Paps. 

Why doesn’t Ben Cherington get aggressive and actively pursue Ryan Madson if he’s the guy they want?  Why wait for Philadelphia to pick over the field and force Cherington into going after Papelbon if he’s available when it may become clear Paps isn’t wanted in Boston.

The only advantages that Papelbon has over Madson is that he’s been closing out ballgames for the past six seasons.  Madson just last year became the closer when Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras couldn’t figure out how to effectively pitch in the late innings, opening the door for Madson.  Throw in a World Series title for Papelbon as a closer and his resume is a little heavier weighted than that of Madsons. 

Is this a big deal?  For some it might be.  Papelbon has a proven track record while Madson has only been doing it for one full season.  He may be deemed a bit of a gamble but that is why he won’t get Papelbon money.

Of course when you throw in the name of Heath Bell who’s said he would enjoy playing for both the Red Sox or Phillies, it opens up a whole new scenario.  Bell is 34-years of age but has been one of the best closers in the game behind Rivera. 

It’s there for the taking if Cherington wants it.  He has the ability and options to bolster the back end of his bullpen by going out and getting his man.  Whomever that may be we’ll wait and see, but Ryan Madson looks pretty attractive right about now.  Problem is, he may not be around much longer.

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