As you all know, the Redlegs made a deadline deal yesterday:
The Cincinnati Reds added a piece to one of baseball’s top bullpens, acquiring Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.
The Reds sent minor league pitchers J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph to the Royals.
For his part, Broxton seems excited to be joining Cincinnati:
Broxton expected a trade but was surprised to wind up with Cincinnati.
“I kind of seen it coming, but I didn’t see Cincinnati,” he said in Kansas City, where the Royals were getting ready to play Cleveland. “But they were real aggressive late is what (GM Dayton Moore) said — that everything that was going on was Texas, Texas, Texas. Cincinnati jumped right in the last second and got me.” …
“I’m going somewhere where I’m picking up 20-25 games (in standings),” Broxton said. “I enjoyed my time here, but this is part of baseball, so go over there and hopefully we can win a division over there.”
Yes, Broxton is happy; should Reds fans be happy that Broxton is joining the roster? Yes, probably.
Who is Jonathan Broxton?
Broxton, of course, is a two-time All-Star who had some excellent seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers. From age 22 to 25, Broxton was very effective, and often dominant; he posted a 2.79 ERA, a 154 ERA+, and strong strikeout rates. Over those seasons, Broxton compiled WAR totals of 1.4, 2.0, 2.2, and 2.8.
His final two years in Los Angeles (2010 and 2011) saw a dip in performance, as Broxton’s ERA jumped to 4.32 and his ERA+ dropped to 90. The drop in effectiveness coincided with a drop in his strikeout rate and a jump in his walk rate. In 2009, Broxton’s K/BB (per 9) rate was 13.5/3.4. By 2011, those numbers were 7.1/6.4 (though, it must be noted that he only pitched in 14 games that season due to injury; his K/BB rates for 2010 show a drop, though it was less precipitous).
Broxton signed a one-year contract with Kansas City prior to the 2012 season for $5.6 million. He has seen a bit of a resurgence this year, posting a 2.27 ERA with 23 saves as the Royals closer. Looking a bit closer at his peripheral numbers shows that Broxton’s walk rate is down again, but the K rate continues to drop (6.4 K/9).
The improved performance seems to be due primarily to bit of a bump in his fastball. That has caused his ground ball rate to rise, and so Broxton is keeping the ball in the ballpark more often.
Does Broxton help the 2012 Reds? I think he does. His FIP/xFIP numbers (3.39/3.98) compare favorably to the other RHP’s in the bullpen: Logan Ondrusek (4.50/5.22), Jose Arredondo (4.16/3.92), Alfredo Simon (3.03/3.91), and Sam LeCure (3.60/3.62). I guess we can argue about it, but I think he strengthens the bullpen*, and that’s a good thing.
*I don’t understand the consternation over GM Walt Jocketty addressing the bullpen, which is one of the team’s strengths, rather than addressing one of the team’s weaknesses. Yes, if Walt could only make one deal, I would have preferred that he fix the dumpster fire at the top of the batting order. By all reports, he tried to do that, but was unable to make a trade with which he was satisfied.
I’m glad, however, that Walt was looking to upgrade anywhere he could. Yes, the bullpen is a strength; that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved. There is one position on the field where Walt Jocketty couldn’t have upgraded: first base. An improved bullpen makes this a better team, if only slightly. I don’t particularly care for the trade, for reasons that will be stated below, but I don’t mind having Jonathan Broxton on this team.
One note of caution: here at Redleg Nation, we’ve documented Dusty Baker’s state of discomfort when it comes to using Sean Marshall in tight spots. Having Broxton on the team means that he’s likely to be used often in the eighth inning. If Broxton’s presence means that Marshall gets fewer opportunities, or that Marshall is used strictly as a LOOGY, then we have a problem. Marshall is one of the best players on this team, and the Reds need to be looking to maximize his contribution, rather than minimize it.
Using those guys together in the eighth inning could be very effective, in my less-than-humble opinion.
What about J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph?
Who are these guys the Reds traded to KC? Let’s begin with Sulbaran.
J.C. Sulbaran is a 22 year-old right-handed starter from Curacao. His numbers improved each season after being drafted in the 30th round (ERAs of 5.24, 4.99, and 4.60; FIPs of 5.88, 4.25, and 3.29), culminating in his spot on several Reds Top Prospects lists before the 2012 season. This year, Sulbaran was promoted to AA and has seen mixed success; his FIP has bumped up to 4.91 and his K/BB rate is down, but he has improved his ERA to 4.06 against stiffer competition.
Scouts like Sulbaran’s stuff, with three solid pitches (low-90s fastball, curveball, change). The change, in particular, is said to be exceptional, but his fastball is somewhat straight, and he has had trouble with command in the past. In all, Sulbaran seems to be a pretty good prospect with potential to be a back-end-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. (Prospect guru John Sickels has Sulbaran as a C+ prospect, but labeled him a sleeper.)
When the trade was first announced, the reports stated that Sulbaran was the only player heading to Kansas City, and I was very happy. I thought that was a fair return. Then we found out that Donnie Joseph had been traded as well, and that changed my thinking.
Donnie Joseph is a guy that I always expected to see in the Reds bullpen, and sooner rather than later. There is some sentiment that the Reds would have been better off calling him up to the bigs instead of trading for Broxton. Maybe, maybe not, but this Baseball America piece on Joseph sums up his talents pretty well:
Like the girl with the curl, when Joseph is good, he’s been very good. But when he’s been bad, he’s been very bad. This has been a good year for Joseph, as he rediscovered the feel for his slider by stopping a tendency to fly open too soon in his delivery. He has two plus pitches: a 92-95 mph fastball and a slider. He will likely never have plus command because his delivery features significant effort including a head-whip, but his stuff is good enough that if he has even average control, he should be able to get big league hitters out. At worst Joseph should be a useful lefty reliever, but his stuff is good enough to get righthanders out as well. He profiles as a solid set-up man.
Joseph is 24 years old and I expect that he will make his major league debut as a Royal very soon.
The bottom line
This trade helps the Reds in 2012, even if Broxton is only a marginal upgrade over in-house options. I can’t shake the feeling, however, that the Reds gave up too much to get him. Joe Sheehan certainly thinks so (subscribe to his excellent newsletter here). While acknowledging that the Reds gave up “low-upside prospects” in the deal, Sheehan doesn’t care for Broxton: “Broxton isn’t good enough to take high-leverage innings from Aroldis Chapman or Sean Marshall or Jose Arredondo. He’s not really good enough to edge Sam LeCure or Alfredo Simon out of their less-important roles. I guess you could say he’s better, this year, than Logan Ondrusek, but it’s certainly not by much, and Ondrusek is younger and was better in 2011.”
As I noted above, I think Broxton is better than Sheehan gives him credit for, but I wanted to include his opinion (a) in order to give a fuller picture of the way the trade is being analyzed, and (b) because Sheehan knows more about baseball than me.
Back to analyzing the trade…Let me say this first: I disagree completely with the cacophony of complaints every time a “prospect” gets traded. I love trading prospects. The only value a prospect has is in how much value he can provide to the major league roster, either today or tomorrow. I would trade Billy Hamilton in a heartbeat in the right deal to improve the major league roster. I would have given up Daniel Corcino or Tony Cingrani in the right deal to get an elite leadoff hitter, or a slugging left fielder, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Fans get way too attached to their team’s prospects, in general. Trade them all if it helps get the Reds to the World Series, I say.
The key phrase, however, is this: “the right deal.”
It seems like surrendering only one of Joseph/Sulbaran would have been a fair return for a pitcher who will only be a Red for the next two months. Joseph and Sulbaran are both near-major league ready, and they both have their talents. I won’t, however, lose any sleep over the fact that neither of these guys works for the Reds organization any longer.
I guess my final analysis of the trade is this: meh. Broxton probably helps the team in the playoff push, which is good. Jocketty probably gave up too much in the trade, but it’s not like these are blue-chip prospects. It’s just not black and white, despite the Twitter-fueled desperation to condemn the trade (or praise it, in the alternative).
Aaaahh…whatever. Go Reds.