It was announced today by baseball media types that the Royals have signed right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton to a one-year, $4 million deal with an extra $1 million in incentives based on games pitched. Broxton, a 6’4″, 300-pound 27-year old and former Los Angeles Dodger, just ended a two-year contract that paid him $4 million in 2010 and $7 million in 2011. It was reported that more than ten teams were likely in on Broxton before he signed with Kansas City, so the Royals must have offered something significant – money, a guaranteed spot on the Opening Day roster, or something else – to get him signed. I’ll run through Broxton’s history and the implications for the Royals after the jump.
Broxton has been an interesting story the last couple years. After building his career to a point where he had a 2.61 ERA in 2009, putting the end on four consecutive years with an ERA under 3.15, he stumbled with his new contract. His ERA jumped to 4.04 in 2010 and 5.68 in 2011, and he experience some significant injury issues in the 2011 campaign, limiting him to 12.2 innings. Broxton has a power arm, throwing 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings over his career, but has also thrown 3.7 walks per nine innings. To be fair, every Royals reliever that threw at least 50 innings in 2011 gave up more walks than Broxton (with the notable exceptions of Joakim Soria and Greg Holland, and we’ll come back to them later). I wanted to see if Broxton’s BABIP experienced an unusual hike over the last two seasons, but he has always had a relatively high number (.314 over his career). He just walked more, struck out fewer, and gave up more hits in 2010 and 2011, which accounts for the difference. Broxton has the pure ability and talent to help the club in the set-up role they’ve set aside for him.
The issue that we have to consider is whether Broxton will be healthy enough throughout the season. He underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery in September and the recovery time should have him ready for the season. Of course, the Royals have several young relievers ready to go in the case that Broxton breaks down, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Broxton may not last the year. On the other hand, the Royals’ Jeff Francis was an injury risk going into 2011 and pitched 183 innings. It’s something to be cautious about, but it will hopefully work out for the Royals.
This does cause a chain reaction for the Royals. Adding Broxton to the 40-man roster means a ripple effect will boot someone else off. It could be someone that was just added, but it’s hard to say whom. The other possibility, and a fairly likely one at that, is that there will be some sort of trade to open up a spot. Of course, that’s only likely if the Royals have some trade waiting in the wings and could now pull the trigger. Lots of rumors have been swirling around a trade for Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Colby Rasmus, who was supposedly a thorn in the side of Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals until they traded him to Toronto this past season. With speculation that the Royals brass might not be ready to hand Lorenzo Cain a starting position in centerfield, it could be a possibility.
Who would the Royals’ trade package center around? The biggest choice is probably Joakim Soria, who has become expendable with the development of Greg Holland and some other young relievers. As Broxton has already been pegged as the set-up man, Soria could be moved in favor of Holland in the closer role. In fact, this seems so likely to me that I would guess Soria isn’t a Royal in 2012. Though that’s hard to imagine for some of us, it’s been a long time coming. Rumors have followed Soria every offseason, so this might be the one that finally sees him moved.
Edit: Bob Dutton of the KC Star tweeted that the Royals will likely look to build a “killer bullpen” since starting pitchers are pretty expensive right now. Royals announce Broxton as set-up man for Soria. So, take that into account when debating trades, moves, etc.
It’s going to be an interesting next week or two for Royals fans and gossips. My bet is on a Soria-for-Rasmus deal, but whether there will be more to that deal remains to be seen. Let me know what you think in the comments.