Trade Bait: Jonathan Broxton


It’s the middle of July, which means rumors fly all over the place.

Usually, teams are looking for another starter for the playoff push or to bolster a bullpen. Enter Jonathan Broxton.

The Royals signed Broxton in the offseason as speculation. Before arm troubles in Los Angeles, Broxton was one of the best setup relievers and then one of the more dominant closers once he took over the job for the Dodgers. When Joakim Soria succumbed to a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery, it left Broxton as the first choice for Ned Yost when it came time to name a closer. Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow also looked like possible fits for the job, but Broxton had closer experience, and managers lover closer experience.

Why the Royals Want to Trade Broxton

By signing Broxton to a one year deal this winter, the Royals were treating him as a reclamation project. They didn’t commit a lot of resources and didn’t saddle themselves with a long-term deal. If he didn’t stay healthy or couldn’t approach his past performance, they’re just out the innings and some salary and move on next year.

If he did perform well, he would be just what he is now – a trade chip.

Additionally, the Royals have plenty of bullpen arms. As mentioned above, Holland, Crow or Herrera could have been tabbed as the closer during spring training and any could step into the role now. The Royals have used Crow in more of a setup/fireman role. Herrera has thrown some long relief appearances but Holland has been great since returning from a DL stint. He’d be the most likely option to close and the Royals would still have strong arms like Louis Coleman or Tim Collins to eat up relief innings while they work towards the ninth.

Why Teams Would Trade for Broxton

Who wouldn’t want bullpen help going down to the wire? Broxton could fit into a contender’s bullpen as a setup man or as a closer on off days or, if the team is struggling for some stability in the ninth, as their closer.

In 33.2 innings, he has a 2.14 ERA and has converted 22 of 26 save opportunities. He’s still a name and finished fourth in the All-Star Final Vote. He has the resume behind him and has had no health issues this year, either. To this point, he’s shown everything he needs to to be a potential asset to a contender.

Why the Royals Might Not Trade Broxton

It would really come down to how much they trust the other bullpen options. He’s succeeded as closer so far, but for a team where the Royals are in 2012, a closer is a luxury.

Still, front offices and managers get lost in the mystique of the closer’s mentality and some reports have suggested they’re interested in signing him to a longer term deal.

They may also end up holding on to him because  they don’t get a deal that fits what they want. They’ve sat on Joakim Soria in the past when there was a strong market for him. Then again, that might compel them to move Broxton now while they can before they’re stuck with nothing in return.

Why Teams May Not Trade for Broxton

The Royals are going to be looking for young pitching that’s going to stay under team control – perhaps the biggest commodity in baseball.

Broxton isn’t without his issues, so teams may shy away from paying a steep price for him. If they have an entrenched closer already, Broxton might not be an upgrade, and they might not trade a legitimate prospect for someone who only marginally improves their bullpen.

At his peak from 2005-2009, Broxton struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings and gave up less than seven hits per nine. In 2012, he’s struck out just over half as many batters per nine innings and his H/9 and BB/9 have increased. He’s often put runners on before finishing the ninth inning, and those kinds of outings are playing with fire. That’s what teams will point to when they say they aren’t interested, or if they aren’t willing to give up a good prospect for him.

The injury history could be scary as well. Broxton hasn’t run into issues this year, but it could be just a matter of time. Pitchers could always be one pitch away from blowing their elbow out.

Who Might Be a Fit

The Mets have supposedly shown interest in Broxton. Frank Francisco and his 4.97 ERA have been closing so far and he’s put up a 1.586 WHIP in the process. Bobby Parnell, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez are options for New York, too, but if they haven’t committed to one yet, they might be fine using more flexible options in the middle innings to keep the lead intact and start Francisco fresh in the ninth. Broxton is filling that same function for the Royals and would upgrade their closer spot.

He could also bolster Boston’s bullpen if they think they can still make a run. Andrew Bailey was acquired in the offseason, but hasn’t gotten healthy after injuring his thumb in spring training. Alfredo Aceves has been closing, but he’s been spotty.

In regards to who the Royals might seek in a deal, well, I’m never good at guessing at who might get included, but Greg Schaum at Pine Tar Press has some scenarios that might work in a deal with the Mets. Those are good names to have in mind as rumors heat up.

For now, it’s just speculation and early buzz. With less than two weeks until the trade deadline, though, Broxton’s name will be tossed around more and more to other teams.