Ryan Madson, Closing, and Contracts

Over at Brotherly Glove, Eric Seidman refutes the suggestion that the Phillies named Jose Contreras closer partially to deflate Ryan Madson‘s leverage in contract negotiations.

While the idea that the team is trying to cost-control Madson by not allowing him to close is interesting from a storyline standpoint, I highly doubt the Phillies are implementing such a devious tactic.

How would it even make sense? The front office would spend this year deflating Madson’s confidence, convincing him that he lacks the mental fortitude to be a closer, hoping that he and Boras buy in and re-sign at a lesser price, only to eventually use Madson in the role they said he could not fill? It’s just too wacky a theory when every angle is examined.

I haven’t seen anyone else suggest this besides myself, so it’s just a theory of mine and is in no way a fact. However, over the years, the Phillies have shown themselves to be very acutely aware of any and all contract situations. Before Cliff Lee, they absolutely refused to devote more than three years to any pitcher, Roy Halladay included. For all of the contracts former GM Pat Gillick and current GM Ruben Amaro have handed out, the only two that have come back to haunt them were the ones awarded to Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins (though some, including myself, will argue that Ryan Howard‘s contract will end up being a mistake).

Let’s not forget that Amaro’s secretive handling of the Lee signing was incredibly strategic. The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers were considered the heavy favorites to sign Lee; the Phillies were never even considered.

Additionally, the Phillies have traditionally set their payroll as a specific percentage of revenue.

Year Revenue ($M) Payroll ($M) Ratio
2005 $167 $95 1.76
2006 $176 $88 2.00
2007 $183 $89 2.06
2008 $192 $98 1.96
2009 $216 $113 1.91
2010 $233 $138 1.69
2011 $239 $169 1.41

From 2005-08, the Phillies had a ratio between 1.76 and 2.06. As soon as they won the World Series, ownership felt the best way to continue to turn a profit was to devote more money to payroll. So as the Phillies made more and more money by selling more tickets, merchandise, advertisements, etc. they sank more of it into the players and coaches on the field.

In 2009, the Phillies signed Howard to $54 million contract extension, signed Ryan Madson to a $12 million contract extension, traded for Cliff Lee, and avoided arbitration with Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino, among others.

Last year, the Phillies traded for Halladay and signed him to a $60 million contract extension, signed Howard to a $125 million contract extension, traded for Roy Oswalt, signed Blanton to a $24 million contract extension, signed Victorino to a $22 million contract extension, signed free agent Placido Polanco to an $18 million deal, and signed Carlos Ruiz to an $8.85 million extension.

Going into 2011, the Phillies signed Lee, exercised Jimmy Rollins‘ $8.5 option, and re-signed Jose Contreras for $5.5 million.

Clearly, the Phillies have become very dedicated to putting out the best possible team that money can buy. However, there is a limit to how much the Phillies can spend. As their current streak of 126 sellouts will attest, you can only sell so many tickets to every game; you can only sell so many jerseys before everyone has one (or seven); you can only sell so much advertising. As profitable as the Phillies are, they cannot yet print their own money like the New York Yankees, which Forbes valued at nearly three times the Phillies ($1.7 billion to $609 million).

The Phillies cannot continue to spend with reckless abandon, especially given how heavily some of the contracts they’ve awarded have been back-loaded. Between now and some time during the next off-season, the Phillies’ front office will be carefully analyzing what they can do with upcoming free agents and position vacancies. Potential free agents include Raul Ibanez (LF), Rollins (SS), Madson (RP), Danys Baez (RP), Brian Schneider (C), Ross Gload (1B/OF), and J.C. Romero (RP). Four arbitration cases await for Cole Hamels (SP), Kyle Kendrick (SP), Ben Francisco, and Wilson Valdez. Roy Oswalt can also be kept around for $16 million or bought out for $2 million. Brad Lidge will likely be bought out for $2 million. As of right now, the Phillies have $113 million committed to nine players.

The case of Madson may seem like an insignificant blip on the radar, but it will actually play quite a large role in how the Phillies’ manage their roster going forward. In baseball, because of the perceived importance of the ninth inning, closers make significantly more money than other relievers. Consider some closers around baseball that have hit free agency:

The only set-up reliever who has come anywhere close was Rafael Soriano, who signed a three-year, $35 million contract with the New York Yankees. But again, they print their own money.

Therefore, it is true that as Madson’s save opportunities increase, so too will his price tag. This is not a fact unknown to the Phillies. If Madson gets scant save opportunities, he and his agent Scott Boras have less leverage in negotiations. They can cite his K/9, BB/9, and xFIP as I have been for the past couple years, but when Amaro cites his relatively low saves total and save conversion rate, there’s not much of a counter-argument, as irrational as it may be.

Assuming a 2012 Opening Day payroll of $175 million, the Phillies have around $65 million to spend on at least 16 players. Chopping Madson’s asking price from (example) three years, $30 million to (example) three years, $18 million is a big deal. Saving $4 million in annual average value nets them a player worth about one extra win above replacement.

I agree that suggesting that the Phillies are intentionally fixing Madson’s price is a wacky suggestion, but I wouldn’t put it past the Phillies. Their front office has been among the trickiest (and best) in all of baseball.

Announcement: Phillies 24/7 HD Radio

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve heard me hint about an announcement for a while now, and I can finally spill the beans. I’ve been asked to contribute to a new HD radio station with WOGL that will have Phillies content 24/7. My show is called Stathead and will air Tuesdays from 3-4 PM ET. Jeff Sottolano will co-host the show with me.

Below is the official press release and information about the shows on the Phillies 24/7 HD radio station.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES PARTNER WITH CBS RADIO’S WOGL ON DEDICATED HD RADIO STATION

PHILLIES 24/7 TO FEATURE LIVE PLAY-BY-PLAY OF EVERY PHILLIES GAME

PLUS GAME RE-BROADCASTS EVERY MORNING AT 9AM

Philadelphia, March 31st, 2011 – The Philadelphia Phillies and CBS RADIO’s WOGL today announced the launch of Phillies 24/7, the first ever HD Radio multicast station exclusively dedicated to a Major League Baseball team.  Phillies 24/7 will air continuously throughout the year and feature live play-by-play of every regular season Phillies game on-air at 98.1 WOGL HD4, plus game re-broadcasts the following morning at 9am.  The channel will launch on Friday, April 1 when the Phillies take on the Houston Astros in their home opener (1:05pm).

CBS RADIO’s WPHT serves as the Phillies radio broadcast flagship, a position they’ve held since 2005 after previously holding that title from 1982-2001.

In addition to game coverage, Phillies 24/7 will broadcast a full schedule of unique daily and weekly programs centered on the team, as well as provide behind the scenes access at Citizens Bank Park, and archived audio content including classic game replays.  Phillies fans can expect to hear new shows heard only on Phillies 24/7, including Phillies Today – a daily look at all things Phillies on the field and off, Phillies Phorum – a weekly opportunity for fans to ask questions via email, Facebook, and Twitter, and Phillies Playlist – a look at what’s playing on a different Phillies’ mp3 player each week.

Marc Rayfield, Senior Vice President of CBS RADIO Philadelphia had this to say about the partnership, “We are thrilled to embark upon this new endeavor with the Phillies. There is an insatiable appetite for this team, and CBS RADIO’s HD platform allows us to use new technology to bring Phillies related content to their fans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And the best part is it’s free!”

“Creating this channel for our fans is a natural way to give them even more access to the team. We are excited to partner with CBS RADIO on this unique and exciting project,“ Phillies Senior Vice President of Marketing and Advertising Sales David Buck added.

HD Radio™ Technology is fueling the digital evolution of AM/FM radio in the US and elsewhere. It allows broadcasters to offer new digital channels through multicasting, crystal-clear sound, and advanced data services – all free, with no subscription fee. HD Radio Technology is available nationwide with more than 2,000 digital stations on-air and an additional 1,300 HD2/HD3/HD4 digital-only channels that broadcast fresh new content that can only be heard with an HD Radio receiver. These receivers are available in retail stores and online from major electronics brands, as well as in new vehicles from 17 automotive brands. For more information, visit hdradio.com.

ABOUT WOGL

WOGL AND WPHT are owned and operated by CBS RADIO, one of the largest major-market radio operators in the United States.   A division of CBS Corporation, CBS RADIO owns and operates 130 radio stations, the majority of which are in the nation’s top 50 markets.  CBS RADIO also owns and operates KYW-AM, WIP-AM and WYSP in Philadelphia.

The landing page for the station can be found here.

Stat Head (Most Tuesdays at 3pm)

Statistics have always been a big deal in baseball. There are the numbers you know about, the hits, runs and errors. There are other numbers though, deeper numbers. Our resident stat head, Bill Baer of CrashburnAlley.com breaks them down for you and tells you what you might be missing.

Tune into the show and please leave feedback here and on the station’s website/email. This week’s show covers expectations with the starting rotation, choosing between Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras, and what’s left at second base sans Chase Utley. I think the show is unlike anything else you’ll get on the radio — level-headed, objective analysis of the Phillies.

If you’re unfamiliar with HD radio, as I was, check out this page as it explains everything you need to know. To tune in, just find 98.1 WOGL HD-4. You should be able to find HD radios at most electronics stores such as Best Buy and Radio Shack.

Mets Series Preview with Joe Janish

The 3-0 Phillies square off against the 2-1 Mets for a three game series. I caught up with fellow SweetSpotter Joe Janish of Mets Today to get some info on the Mets.

1. The Mets are off to a 2-1 start. Obviously, just about everybody is picking against the Mets this year, but was there anything in those three games that provided some optimism?

As usual, it helped that the Marlins beat themselves in the opening series. The good news is that, unusually, the Mets didn’t beat themselves and took advantage of a fundamentally poor team’s mistakes. Also, it appears that R.A. Dickey‘s carriage has not turned to a pumpkin and Jon Niese may be poised for a breakout season. Additionally, Josh Thole continues to make strides both at and behind the plate. Carlos Beltran has taken the field twice, and Jose Reyes hasn’t yet injured himself. In short, I’m basking in a positive glow but waiting for the sky to fall at any minute.

2. I caught some heat on your blog last year because I called Mike Pelfrey a fluke. Are fans’ expectations of Pelfrey lowered after his decline last year, or do you expect him to emerge as one of the better pitchers in baseball this year?

Fans’ expectations are for Pelfrey to be as good or better than he was last year — he is the de facto “ace” after all. Unfortunately I’m seeing the same mechanical inconsistencies that affected his command and likely contributed to his shoulder woes last year. Oh, did you know Pelfrey pitched with a strained rotator cuff and posterior capsule last year, and took a pain-killing shot before every start? We didn’t either, not until a few days ago. Since he hasn’t yet made the mechanical correction, I fear his command issues will only worsen, and that he may further damage his shoulder. So, no, I don’t expect him to emerge as one of baseball’s better pitchers this year (but hope that I’m wrong).

3. Ike Davis is off to a fast start. What kind of year do you think he’ll have offensively? Does he make the list of baseball’s top-ten first basemen?

Davis has made a few adjustments as the NL adjusted to him — and that is how players succeed at this level. I don’t know if he’ll be a top-ten first baseman but he should improve upon last year’s numbers. I would peg him be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 HR, .270 – .280 AVG, .350 – .360 OBP, .450 – .475 SLG.

4. Francisco Rodriguez blew a save on Saturday. Is he over the hill? If he falters, who can the Mets use in the ninth inning?

K-Rod isn’t over the hill, but he’s rolling down it. His velocity has dropped markedly since putting on a Mets uniform — there were times last year that he struggled to hit 90 MPH. As a result he has relied heavily on his change-up and breaking stuff, and hitters have caught on. I believe much of his problems stem from the combination of an ankle injury that led to mechanical changes, and I don’t believe he’ll ever be a $17.5M closer. If he falters to the point where he needs to be replaced, the Mets will be overjoyed, as the previously alluded to $17.5M option is tied to games finished. I would guess that flamethrowing Bobby Parnell would get first crack at closing, though if Jason Isringhausen gets on the 25-man roster he would also be a candidate.

5. Do you expect Carlos Beltran to remain a Met throughout the season? What are the chances Jose Reyes is signed to a contract extension?

No and none. I’m making sure to fully appreciate every single at-bat of those two players early on, as I expect a fire sale come July.

6. The match-ups in this three-game series will be Chris Young/Cole Hamels, Mike Pelfrey/Joe Blanton, and Jon Niese/Roy Halladay. How do you see the series playing out — how many will the Mets win?

Young has pitched well in spring training and healthy so far, but I don’t like how his high-ball style will play in CBP. Unless Pelfrey does an absolute about-face, things could get ugly. Niese is the one who I have the most confidence in right now, but he’s going against Doc. How many will the Mets win? Let’s just say I’ll be pleased if they get out of Philly with one victory.

. . .

Thanks again to Joe for shedding some light on the new New York Mets. Hop over to his blog Mets Today for my answers to his questions, and to keep up on Mets-related stuff throughout the season.