Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
According to a report from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Royals have agreed to sign Ryan Madson to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The 34-year old reliever has a 3.59 ERA in 630 career innings.
Madson spent the first 9 years of his big league career with the Phillies, where he mostly pitched out of the bullpen, and mostly as a setup man. His best season in that role came in 2010, when he struck out 10.9 batters per 9 innings, walked just 2.2 per 9, and had a 2.55 ERA. The following season, the Phillies used Madson as their closer, and he again succeeded, with a 2.37 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and 32 saves in his contract year.
That season is the last big league action Madson has seen. After signing a contract with the Reds for 2012, elbow injuries ravaged what was left of a promising career. He missed all of 2012, then signed a deal with the Angels before 2013, but he only pitched 1 inning in High-A, again due to injuries.
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At his best, Madson threw a fastball and sinker, both sitting in the mid-90s, and a devastating changeup. In 2011, he generated whiffs on more than a third of the changeups he threw. He also got a lot of groundballs, with a career groundball rate of 47.7%.
The current version of Madson likely doesn’t possess the same repertoire. I haven’t seen reports, but I’m guessing he’s lost velocity, and there’s no telling how sharp his offspeed stuff is after all the elbow problems he’s experienced. Madson has had good command throughout his career, and he’ll probably need to rely on that again if he hopes to find success.
For the Royals, Madson provides the always-desired bullpen depth. Since it’s a minor league deal, he won’t occupy a place on the 40-man roster, but he’ll be in Omaha if anything should happen to one of the big league relievers. The team already had some depth for the second half with the signing of Kris Medlen, but Madson could fill that need right away, if he’s healthy.
And even if he doesn’t stay healthy, there is no real risk for the Royals. There’s no financial commitment if things don’t work out, and if they don’t need Madson, they aren’t using a roster spot for him. I love these kinds of minor league deals, because we know that the player had talent in the past, and if the Royals can tap into it, they might get some value. Plus, as a reliever, they don’t need to rely on him in a major role if he does make it to Kansas City.
This signing may not have a big impact on the 2015 Royals, but it’s a nice deal for depth in an area where depth is a great thing to have.