Completing the next step in his attempt to revive his Major League career, reliever Ryan Madson threw some baseballs in an open audition for about 15 teams today in Phoenix, Arizona. As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports, the 33-year-old right-hander was able to get his fastball up to 93 MPH, which impressed the representatives of some teams in attendance.
It will be surprising if Madson doesn’t end up latching on with a team on a minor league deal soon. They say you can never have too much pitching, especially when it’s relatively risk-free in this case. The worst that happens is a team brings Madson into camp, he doesn’t perform or gets injured again, and they simply pay him for his time in February and March.
Madson hasn’t thrown a pitch since he retired Cardinals Yadier Molina, Daniel Descalso, and Nick Punto in order in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS with the Phillies. Before his career was derailed by injuries, he had performed admirably as one of baseball’s best set-up men and briefly as a closer in 2011 when Brad Lidge couldn’t stay healthy.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.