Free Agent Faceoff: Ryan Madson vs. Joakim Soria

MLBTradeRumors is introducing a new series in which two comparable free agents are analyzed side by side. Each post will conclude with a reader vote on the value of the two players.

Coming into the season, Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria were two of baseball’s truly elite relievers. They combined to throw zero meaningful pitches in 2012. Both right-handers missed the season with Tommy John surgery and will hit the open market as free agents this winter. They figure to be in high demand despite their injuries, but is one preferable to the other?

Madson, 32, has just one season as a closer to his credit (2011), but from 2009-2011 he was a high-strikeout (9.6 K/9) and low-walk (2.4 BB/9) late-inning reliever for the Phillies. His best pitch is a low-to-mid-80s changeup, a pitch that generally puts less stress on the elbow than sliders or curveballs. In addition to the elbow reconstruction, Madson has missed time with a hand contusion (2011), a toe fracture (2010), and a shoulder strain (2007) in recent years.

Soria, 28, is actually recovering from his second Tommy John procedure. He’s been closing games since the middle of 2007, and owns a 9.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 for his career. Soria is the rare four-pitch reliever, using two breaking balls (slider and curveball) in addition to his changeup and low-90s fastball. He missed time with a shoulder strain in 2009 and an oblique strain in 2011.

The Royals intend to buy out Soria’s club option for next year and negotiate a new deal, but either way he and Madson will have little trouble landing work this offseason given their pedigrees. Almost every team will have interest in signing one or both guys to one-year, low base salary, incentive-laden contracts in the coming weeks.

28 Responses to Free Agent Faceoff: Ryan Madson vs. Joakim Soria Leave a Reply

  1. TBRays3 3 years ago

    Depends on what you need. Closer with lots of experience? Then Soria. Interchangeable in closer or set-up? Then Madson. Id pick Soria though.

    • I think the whole “proven closer” thing is vastly overrated. Both of these guys have enough talent and experience that they should be able to succeed in any role asked of them.

      • TBRays3 3 years ago

        Very true, but some guys just can’t handle it i.e. David Robertson

        • chris german 3 years ago

          Wellllll, it’s a bit premature to say that I think.

          • TBRays3 3 years ago

            Maybe so, but it could be a precursor if he finds himself in that role in the near future

      • Joe Valenti 3 years ago

        Eric Gagne would like a word with you. It’s weird. Some guys are so used to being closers that they can’t be 8th inning guys. Maybe its habit or maybe it has to do with the adrenaline they need or something. Couldn’t tell ya

        • Gagne’s demise was more than just a transition though. Injuries derailed his career. He was an HGH guy too even though that is irrelevant.

          • chris german 3 years ago

            We could use Rafael Soriano as an example then, last year as a set-up man, 4.12 ERA. This past season as a closer? 2.26 ERA.

  2. Dale Pearl 3 years ago

    How about neither? Signing either to anything more than a 1yr. contract would be foolish. Both of these pitchers may have thrown their last pitch in baseball. Last I heard was that Madson may not even be ready for the start of the season.

    • TBRays3 3 years ago

      um Tommy John surgery usually is a safe procedure, especially in the past 5 years or so to the point where TJ is the norm for pitchers. I would not be surprised to see both of them get multi-year contract in exchange for a smaller AAV, especially Madson as he most likely will not require it again as his bread and butter is a change-up

      • LazerTown 3 years ago

        I think it might be more likely a short contract. TJS is safe, and I think they will want to rebuild their value before settling for a small value contract. Soria is a brilliant closer if he is healthy.

      • Sniderlover 3 years ago

        Tommy John surgery is a safe procedure if it is the first. Soria is getting it done for the second time and the success rate of second TJS goes down dramatically. It’s possible Soria may never recover though there is a good chance with Madson.

    • Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

      “Both of these pitchers may have thrown their last pitch in baseball.”

      … yeah… that’s not even remotely accurate.

  3. basemonkey 3 years ago

    TJ surgery recovery is different for different pitches. As a general rule, they say it takes about a solid year for the fastball to be back. And, it takes a full year on breaking balls. So, both guys should have their fastballs back in 2013, but the breaking balls will probably be erratic.

  4. DerekJeterDan 3 years ago

    Definitely Joakim Soria. The numbers he posted when healthy are ridiculous!

  5. Soria had a poor year (by his standards) in ’11 and Madson had an outstanding year. That being said…both players missed a full calendar year so I dont think we can weigh ’11 much more heavily than their career numbers.

    I’ll take Soria. Younger, and a superior track record.

  6. chris german 3 years ago

    Madson, he has good post-season experience. Soria has spent his career pitching for a small-market team that hasn’t even had a winning record while he’s been on it. Soria even has a no-trade clause that includes the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Dodgers. Those are all typically good (until this year), large market teams. Does the idea of pitching for a consistent contender make him nervous? Soria’s a great pitcher, but in a tight spot, I’ll take Madson.

  7. I prefer Soria, but I’d be skeptical due to this being his second TJ surgery. The success rate for players who had two TJ surgeries is very low. I’d sign Madson.

  8. Guest 3 years ago

    Madson has much better experience. Joakim Soria is a great pitcher, but he has spent his entire career pitching for a small-market team that hasn’t even had a winning record while he’s been on it. In a tight spot in the post-season? Give me Madson.

  9. Floyd7070 3 years ago

    Neither. I’d rather have Donald Trump as my closer.

  10. NYPOTENCE 3 years ago

    I’d take Soria since he is relatively younger and I view him as a higher upside pickup.

  11. NomarGarciaparra 3 years ago

    I take Harvey Specter…they say he’s the best closer!

  12. LazerTown 3 years ago

    Soria is 4 years younger, has been better in his career, although I would take either of them if healthy.

  13. I was surprised it was this close (60/40) on the vote for Soria. I think he has had a great career so far and is ready for a great comeback.

  14. John 3 years ago

    The poll needs a “neither” option. Relief pitching is very volatile, and it is unknown if either pitcher has what it takes to be a closer anymore. Both come with pretty big risks,

  15. Jack Miller 3 years ago

    Soria is a better bet due to age and minus 2011 ,consinscity

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