Ryan Madson’s deal sets a rich market for free agent closers

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Assuming his reported four-year, $44 million contract eventually becomes official, as the first closer from a closer-heavy free agent class to sign Ryan Madson’s deal would set the market extremely high for guys like Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Cordero.

They’re surely thrilled with Madson’s deal setting the tone, but the other 29 teams can’t be thrilled with the Phillies paying $44 million for what they hope will be 275 innings or so.

In fact, Alex Speier of WEEI.com notes that Madson is the first reliever since the pre-2008 offseason to get a four-year contract and going back even further than that it’s awfully tough to find more than a few instances of a team not regretting a four-year contract given to a reliever despite all relievers who got a four-year deal being elite at the time.

That doesn’t mean the Phillies will regret giving four years to Madson, as he’s only 30 years old and one of the elite relievers in baseball going back much further than his time as a closer, but it could nudge other teams toward overpaying for older, worse closers and the trickle-down effect may even boost the asking price for top-level setup men.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.