Poll: Ryan Madson Vs. Heath Bell

Most statistics say Phillies closer Ryan Madson had a better 2011 than Padres stopper Heath Bell.  Madson is three years younger, but Bell has tallied three consecutive 40-save seasons.  Both righties are Type A free agents, and guessing their contracts is an interesting exercise.

In the last three years, Madson has increased his strikeout rate to more than a batter per inning while maintaining strong walk and groundball rates.  He had a reputation as someone who was better off in the eighth than the ninth inning heading into this year, but Madson silenced those critics by converting 32 of 34 opportunities once pressed into duty.  He's represented by Scott Boras, and will find a three-year deal with ease.  No free agent reliever has gotten a four-year deal since Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink four years ago, but I think Madson has a shot.

Bell experienced a marked decline in strikeout rate this year, showing signs of his old rate only in September.  He still limited hits and home runs and converted 43 of 48 save opportunities.  Bell wants and expects to remain in San Diego, saying in August that he'd accept arbitration if the Padres offer.  Padres owner Jeff Moorad said one year was preferable to the team in some ways.  It was reported later that month that the Padres offered a two-year, $14MM deal while Bell was seeking $27-30MM over three years.  Bell is represented by ACES, an agency known for getting strong multiyear deals for veteran free agents.

For the sake of argument, let's say both relievers reach the open market.  That's not hard to picture with Madson, who will certainly cost a draft pick to sign.  For Bell to reach the open market, the Padres would probably have to decline to offer him arbitration.  So in this scenario Madson costs a draft pick to sign and Bell does not.  Working under these assumptions, which reliever gets a bigger overall contract, Madson or Bell? 

26 Responses to Poll: Ryan Madson Vs. Heath Bell Leave a Reply

  1. Brad Johnson 4 years ago

    The cynic in me wonders if Bell isn’t playing the Padres with this talk of accepting arbitration just so he can avoid losing money to Type A status.

  2. Madson will get more because I feel he’ll sign with a team that will pay him. Maybe the Angels

  3. stl_cards16 4 years ago

    I would prefer Madsen if the money and years are the same.  But, if you could get Bell for a year less and not have to give up the draft pick, then I would probly lean toward Bell.

  4. ARodinyourPujols 4 years ago

    I would be very cautious signing Bell to any length. He isn’t the prototypical closer and his numbers would scare me pitching outside of Petco every game. I would lean towards Madson but someone is going to pay Bell more. 

    • padreshobo 4 years ago

      23 of his saves this year came outside of Petco. That being said, I wouldn’t throw a bunch of money at him. So many of his saves this year felt super sketchy. 

  5. Christopher David 4 years ago

    If the question were “who would you prefer to sign” I would go w/ Madson. He’s younger, and he still seems hungry to prove himself, as he’s not had a full year as a closer. Bell is older, fatter, and kind of a clown. Giving up a 1st Round pick for a closer is fairly prohibitive, but I have the feeling it may not get to that. I think the Phils are going to work something out and keep him.

    I would also like to point out that while Bell has far more saves this year, Madson (1) didn’t start the year as the Phils closer, (2) was briefly injured, (3) pitches in a notoriously hitter-friendly park, whereas Bell is in a notoriously pitcher-friendly park, and (4) doesn’t have nearly as many save opportunities because of great starting pitching, and an offense that every once in awhile manages to put up enough runs to send a janitor out to the mound instead of a pitcher. I think if Madson had Bell’s opportunities, he would easily have as many, or maybe even more saves.

  6. bjsguess 4 years ago

    We are dealing with REALLY small sample sizes but Heath Bell has been just effective on the road as he has been at Petco. Any discussion around him being a product of Petco is misguided.

    Personally, I do place stock in a guy with a track record in the 9th inning. Madson will probably be just fine but if I’m going to drop $30m on a closer I want someone who has been doing it well for more than one year.

    • same goes for a starting pitcher (C.J. Wilson). If I’m dropping A.j Burnett money on a starter i want one who has been doing it for more than 2 years! Thoughts?

  7. NomarGarciaparra 4 years ago

    If Bell won’t cost picks, he would be a good pickup for the Red Sox. However, his low K rate this season is somewhat concerning.

  8. “No free agent reliever hasn’t gotten a four-year deal…”

    Hasn’t gotten?  So they’ve all received four-year contracts aside from those two?

  9. Phillies_Aces35 4 years ago

    I’d give the money to Madson. I don’t put any stock into the lack of 9th inning experience because a set up man generally faces the heart of a line up just as much, if not as often. All Madson had to do was get over the mental hurdle of being a closer, which he has done this year.

    … plus his agent is Scott Boras and Boras always finds someone stupid enough to pay $$$ for his clients. “Ryan Madson = Trevor Hoffman.”

    • nm344 4 years ago

      Umm, Boras said Madson = Rivera before he even signed his last extension

  10. Steve 4 years ago

    What about Rafael Betancourt as a closer? Same age group, much better numbers and more affordable. If we don’t pay for saves in fantasy, why should the majors?

  11. If Heath Bell gets offered arbitration why would he take it? If Bell hits free agency he’ll be getting a multiyr deal at a price similar to what he’d get in arb. per yr. I’m thinking 2 yr $17.75-19 for Heath on the market. Thoughts?

  12. If Heath Bell gets offered arbitration why would he take it? If Bell hits free agency he’ll be getting a multiyr deal at a price similar to what he’d get in arb. per yr. I’m thinking 2 yr $17.75-19 for Heath on the market. Thoughts?

  13. Saves are probably more valuable than WAR. A save doesn’t need the help of your teammates (other than defense) like wins do

  14. Louie Schuth 4 years ago


  15. stl_cards16 4 years ago

    You don’t need the help of your teammates?  You mean the guys that scored the runs to get the team the lead weren’t needed? Interesting

  16. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    “A save doesn’t need the help of your teammates (other than defense) like wins do”

    o rly? slow groundball to the left side…aaand there it goes into the outfield…aaaand all the way to the wall…aaand now the pitcher runs after it…finally he’s chased it down…throw to the cutoff ma-whoops nope runs it all the way back himself…aaand blown save

    another rough day in the life of the closer who “doesn’t need the help of his teammates”

  17. bjsguess 4 years ago

    No they are not.

    Saves are a by-product of opportunity. Most MLB pitchers if placed in the closers role could net 20-25 saves. 

    They fall into the same broad statistical trash heap as RBIs, Runs, and Wins.

    That said, I DO place value in having a guy at the end of the game that you can absolutely count on to close things out. Unfortunately, Saves are a terrible way to measure that effectiveness.

  18. Lunchbox45 4 years ago

    so a 1-2-3 ninth inning for a save vs the 7-8-9 hitters is more valuable to the teams win than the pitcher who comes in the 7th to face 2-3-4 in the order with the bases loaded in a 1 run ball game?

  19. ARodinyourPujols 4 years ago

    As much as i disagree with his statement, he did say, “other than defence”. So your situation doesn’t really prove anything. 

  20. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    i think when i read “a save doesn’t need the help of your teammates” my eyes rolled so hard i didn’t see the parenthetical. even though i quoted it

    -1 internet smartass points

  21. Reaper87 4 years ago

    and there lies the inherent flaw in the logic “OMG, we can’t bring our closer in before the 9th inning with a lead” that most managers use today. I think the idea of the save is not overrated, but how its been implemented is

  22. Lunchbox45 4 years ago

    of course not, but that’s not recorded as a save its recorded as a hold. 

  23. Reaper87 4 years ago

    Exactly, which is why the value of the gaudy save totals is not nearly as high as it seems on the surface. The most effective use of relievers is using the best arm at the most critical time, whenever that point comes in a game.

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