DALLAS - It's still highly unlikely that any of the three Phillies free agents offered arbitration will accept by the 11:59 p.m. Wednesday deadline. Jimmy Rollins is looking for a five-year deal and should at least be able to secure a three-year contract. Ryan Madson wants four years and a chance to close. Raul Ibanez will not accept, thanks to a handshake agreement.
But there was at least some reason Tuesday to wonder whether Madson could accept, because his market continues to shrink.
On Monday, Minnesota re-signed Matt Capps to a one-year deal. On Tuesday, Toronto traded for Sergio Santos and anointed him closer. The New York Mets reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Jon Rauch and a two-year pact with Frank Francisco, leaving only the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, and San Diego Padres with closer openings.
Still on the market are pitchers Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero, and Brad Lidge. The Red Sox were not willing to even negotiate with Jonathan Papelbon beyond three years. The Angels are focused on C.J. Wilson and could drop more than $100 million in a deal for him.
"I don't know how it affects his marketplace," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I know there are other teams looking for closers."
When the wheel stops spinning, is there a lucrative contract for Madson? That's the risk agent Scott Boras probably will take by not accepting arbitration. (Interestingly, Boras represents both Madson and Rodriguez. Does he tell one of his clients to accept arbitration so they both have landing spots?)
There is precedent for Madson's situation. Another Boras client, Rafael Soriano, was looking to become a full-time closer in 2010 but did not have an offer he liked. So he accepted arbitration with Atlanta, which later traded him to Tampa Bay.
Madson made $4.5 million in 2011 as one of the game's top closers. If he accepts arbitration, he will receive a sizable raise for a one-year deal, with a likely ceiling of $9 million.
The Phillies then could try to trade Madson to a team that is more comfortable with having him on a one-year deal or simply keep him for one season to form one of the best setup-closer combos in baseball.
What would be Madson's incentive to accept? He could be a free agent next winter in a market not saturated with closing options.
With the limited options, it's difficult to envision any team lavishing Madson with the reported four-year, $44 million terms the Phillies and Boras began negotiating. So, is it worth waiting another season for his lucrative deal or settling this winter just so he can secure a closing job?
That's the question Boras and Madson must answer before Wednesday ends.
Charlie Manuel typically talks to a few of his players during the winter just to keep tabs. The manager said he received a text message from Roy Halladay around Thanksgiving that made him smile.
"He said that he was ready to go back and try it again," Manuel said. "He says, 'If we keep doing this, we're going to win one of these days.' "
How did Manuel respond?
"I would have texted him back, but I don't do it," he said. "I can't do it."
Manuel said Jim Thome will spend the beginning of spring training playing first base in minor-league camp. He is optimistic that Thome can play there during the season. "If I was a betting man, I'd say that he can play once or twice a week," Manuel said. "But at the same time, I won't push him. I'm not going to put him in an embarrassing situation." . . . Amaro said he has discussed trades with "20 to 25" teams. None of the talks was serious. "There's a lot of crazy ideas that get thrown out there," Amaro said.