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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.