Madson signing rounds out improved Reds bullpen

Former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ryan Madson has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds, pending a physical. With Jonathan Papelbon set to close out games in Philadelphia, this deal works well for Madson, as he gets the chance to close games for the Reds, a team drastically improved over the last couple of weeks.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty reinforced his “win-now” plan for 2012 by expertly low-bidding and eventually winning the Madson sweepstakes. Jocketty took advantage of a poor closer market not by re-signing Francisco Cordero at a discount, but by getting a younger, better closer. Madson and Sean Marshall, the second-newest member of the Reds, are poised to close out a lot of games for the only team in the NL Central that seems to be making any moves.

Not only do these bullpen moves bode well for the Reds heading into late innings with a lead, they also allow their young starting rotation some wiggle room. If a starter gets tossed in the third inning, the middle relief corps is now strong enough to eat up some of those middle innings. Guys like Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo don’t have to worry about perhaps pitching in the eighth and can focus on keeping the game within striking distance. Pitcher’s duels heading into late innings also favor the Reds, as this new bullpen looks to be one of the best in the National League.

With the pitching corps seemingly figured out, all the Reds are looking to do now is add a power-hitting left fielder and a utility infielder to spell the rookie Zach Cozart at shortstop. This is a tall order, however, as the $8.5 million guaranteed to Madson was about all the spare cash the Reds had. And with the farm system looking pretty vacant after the Mat Latos trade, I would like to see Chris Heisey given an everyday chance in left. In 279 at-bats last season, Heisey hit 18 homers with 50 RBI. He also struck out 78 times while drawing only 19 walks.

So, the question for Heisey is if he can even out those numbers over the course of a full season. He was pinch-hitter extraordinaire last year, and is excited at the idea of patrolling left field for the Reds in 2012. I think Heisey’s smart enough to realize that as the Reds keep spending money elsewhere, the chances of them bringing in his replacement get slimmer. With the additions to the bullpen, maybe the Reds’ brass are realizing their offense won’t have to put up 10 runs a game in order to win and they can roll with what they drafted.

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