I thought signing Ryan Madson for four years and $44 million was a bad idea, even though he is the best free-agent reliever on the market, both short- and long-term. The history of signing relievers to deals of that length is simply too awful to ignore.
That contract would have been a bargain relative to the four-year deal the Phillies are about to give Jonathan Papelbon -- more money, plus a lost draft pick, for an inferior reliever who gives up more fly balls.
Papelbon was the second-best relief option on the market, but even in one of his best seasons in 2011, he was worth only two or three wins above replacement, and I'd put the over/under on his WAR for this deal at around eight, which would still make it a pretty bad contract. But the real issue with any reliever and with Papelbon specifically is high attrition rates -- relievers don't last, and their peaks tend to be short.