UPDATE: Via Jayson Stark, Madson's deal is supposed to include a mutual 2013 option, with a buyout. Basically an artful version of deferred money, though we don't know the value of the option. Maybe it will look good to both sides after a World Series-clinching save.
Just yesterday, I think I may have said something like: "Whelp, I guess it's Wood or Cordero." I don't know how I spelled Madson so terribly wrong, but I'm glad I was right. It's been a happy week so far in Reds Country, though I hope you're not getting spoiled into thinking something good is going to happen every day. The Yoenis Cespedes signing doesn't come until Friday.
The market broke the right way for the Reds after Madson's reported $44M deal with the Phillies was scuttled, which paved the way for their signing of Jonathan Papelbon. There were less buyers than expected and the few with deep pockets seeking a closer decided not to pay Boras' asking price. Boras miscalculated in holding out for a Philly-style deal that never came. That allowed the Reds to swoop in and offer at least $2.5M less than the AAV Boras expected to get and avoid getting into a Cordero Contract that committed starting pitcher level money to Madson through his mid-30s. It would have been nice to get another year of Madson at a discount, but he's obviously seeking a big contract again in 2013 and it's perfectly fine for the Reds not to be paying what would probably be 8 figures for a closer again.
The $8.5M that Jerry Crasnick is reporting for Madson's one year deal is not a pittance. Although we may not understand fully how to evaluate reliever leverage and the "chaining" effect of relievers on the quality of the bullpen as a whole, it's still difficult to justify, in strict money for wins terms, paying a closer what you might pay a #2 starter. Madson, however, is not only the best closer on the market, hes probably the best free agent left that the Reds can afford. Considering the free agent market this winter, wherein Madson was easily in the Top 20 and the Reds' may have had a bird in hand with Cordero, this is a very good signing. Considering Madson was a Boras client who was expecting in excess of $11-$12M over multiple years, it's a potentially great one.
The "win now" imperative says if you have money to spend, you should spend it. So if the Reds are shelling out $8.5M in free agent bucks, it's hard to imagine getting a better product. Perhaps Kerry Wood and Cody Ross combined could have been signed for less than Madson's money. Perhaps they still will be - its been a surprising off season. But even accepting the WAR values of relievers, Madson is worth as much or more than two role-player signings. It's also worth mentioning that this signing appears in the transaction feed right above "Cardinals sign Koyie Hill."
On paper, the Reds' bullpen is now - there's no other word for it - dynamite. But unlike Van Morrison, we do know why. Madson and Marshall were both in the Top 10 among NL relievers last season by most any measure, with Marshall arguably better than everyone but Craig Kimbrel. They'll be pitching the late innings, joined by Bill Bray, Jose Arredondo, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek and Sam LeCure. For depth, there are intriguing minor league signings like Josh Judy and Andrew Brackman. Charlie Scrabbles has argued well for why Judy in particular could be much more than filler.
You don't have to love paying relief pitchers to be excited about this move. And excitement is part of what the Reds are investing their money and prospects in this winter.