Trade Retrospective: Jonathan Broxton to Reds

The Reds are never known for making a lot of moves at the trade deadline — they make the majority of their moves during the offseason. This was one exception to Walt Jocketty’s past trades and it caught many people by surprise. When it was known that Broxton was likely to be traded, many people thought that it might be the Rangers or the Orioles or the Giants and out of nowhere, the Reds pick him up.

While Broxton was a good pitcher, the Reds gave up some very solid talent to acquire him, giving up both Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran for a pitcher who everyone knew would not be the closer for the Reds. Many, including myself, thought that this was immediately a bad deal for the Reds. A year and ten months after this deal; this piece is going to cover how the trade looks now and how it could potentially look like in the future.

From the Royals’ perspective:

Losing Jonathan Broxton was not only good for them; it turned out to be great for them. It was incredibly likely that he was going to leave them anyway at the end of the season when he hit free agency but they were able to receive not one but two prospects for him. The better of the two prospects is Donnie Joseph.

Donnie Joseph made his Major League debut last year, coming out of the bullpen on July 11, 2013 for the Kansas City Royals, pitching .1 innings and walking one. He was up only briefly for a little bit before being sent down and then coming right back up in September. While in the majors, he threw 5.2 innings in 6 games, struck out 7 batters, walking 4, giving up 4 hits, and not allowing any runs. Before that, he had a very successful minor league career. He has managed to strike out a lot of batters in the minors while also managing to limit the homers. In Triple A (2012-2013), he had a 12.06 K/9 in Triple A using only two pitches, a fastball that he can throw that will top out at about 92 mph and a lights out slider that he can throw around 85 mph. Part of what makes his stuff so good is his delivery. His delivery is very unorthodox and it makes his slider all the more deadly. What Joseph does is he slows himself down and holds his arm at such an angle that it is tough for the left handed batter to get a good read on him.

Where Joseph struggles is with his control. In those years in Triple A, he averaged about 5.98 BB/9 and while he kept the home run numbers down with only allowing 6 homers in his 93.3 innings (good for a .58 HR/9). He will not be a starter in the majors as neither in the minors nor in the majors did he ever start even one game, but he doesn’t project to be a lefty only kind of pitcher. His stuff indicates that he could face right handed batters in the majors. He looks to become a great piece to one of the already best bullpens in all of baseball.

The other prospect, Juan Carlos (J.C.) Sulbaran is one who definitely needs some polishing up before he can be considered anything other than a prospect. The potential is there for him, but having been in the Minor Leagues for five years, and at the not as young anymore age of 24, he could start to see an opportunity at reaching the Majors start to slip away. His problem has been control or lack thereof. In 2013 at Double A, he had a 5.44 BB/9 but only a K/9 of 5.05. He also tends to give up his fair share of home runs too, having given up 1.75 HR/9 at the Double A level in 2013 as well. He used to be better at striking out people than he is now but his strikeout rate has been on a sharp decline while his walks and home run rates have not been going anywhere. The Royals are looking to turn him into a starter but if he can’t find his control, then he will just become a lost prospect who never panned out.

Part of this trade that many people don’t think about is the door that it opened. Trading Broxton allowed the Royals to look into their bullpen, pull Greg Holland out, and place him in the role of closer and Holland has been nothing short of exceptional since then. Since the start of the 2012 season, only Craig Kimbrel has registered a higher WAR than Holland as a relief pitcher (Kimbrel had a 6.3 WAR to Holland’s 6.0). Holland limits home runs (.46 HR/9 in his career), limits walks (3.32 BB/9 but that number has been going down over his past three seasons), and have always struck out a ton of batters (12.34 K/9 and that number is only going up). All these numbers factor into his 1.80 FIP since 2012 that is only topped by Craig Kimbrel’s 1.32 FIP. By sending Broxton to Cincinnati, the Royals created a vacancy in the closer role that they knew they would eventually need to fill (as Broxton would eventually become a free agent at the end of that season) but by shipping him out mid-season, they were able to test out how Holland would handle the ninth inning in a lost season and he fit in beautifully which provided them a solid closer for when they would be a better team the next season.

From the Reds’ perspective:

When pitching Jonathan Broxton hasn’t been bad but that is about all that I can say positive about Broxton. The Reds acquired him to be a setup man and then all of a sudden signed him to one of the biggest contracts for a relief pitcher overall, let alone a relief pitcher who isn’t even assigned to be a closer. And as if it couldn’t get any better (note the sarcasm), he has been injured for a large part of his tenure as a Reds player. He was injured for a large part of 2013 with a right elbow flexor and only wound up throwing 30.2 innings with them that season. Then in 2014 took a while coming back off the DL after undergoing right forearm surgery. When he has pitched with the Reds, he hasn’t been bad but the time that he has pitched has been very limited. There are other signs that are concerning involving the future of Broxton.

The days of Broxton being that dominant pitcher with the electric fastball on the mound are over but he can still be a solid pitcher if and only if he changes his approach to pitching. His K/9 has been progressively going down since 2010 when it was 10.54 as in 2013 it was only 7.34. His BB/9 for the most part have remained consistent, sitting at above 3 BB/9 for most of his career and he is still good at limiting the home runs which is a good sign. However, most pitches who don’t strike out a lot of batters have ground ball rates over 50%. His groundball rates have for the most part always been around 45% which aren’t bad but it should be lower as he starts losing strikeouts.

A contributing factor to the reduction in strikeouts is his fastball velocity heading downhill while his off speed pitches haven’t changed speeds. So far in 2014, his fastball has averaged about 92.8 mph and while his slider has lost speed as well (being at about 85.6 mph), his changeup velocity is at 89.9 mph, leaving a difference in velocity between fastball and changeup of 2.9 mph. And while he only throws his changeup 2.7% of the time, there should be a greater difference in speed between the fastball and changeup otherwise it will be much easier for the hitters to hit off of him. Broxton is clearly heading downhill and the Reds definitely got the worse end of this trade.

When the Reds made this trade, it resembled the Sean Marshall deal too much for me not to know Jocketty’s intention which was to extend Broxton after making the trade. Too often I have seen Walt Jocketty trade for a player in his contract year, giving up a lot of talent and then try to extend the player in his contract year. Like with Marshall, this deal isn’t looking too good for the Reds. They signed Broxton to a three year, $21 million deal that the Reds are only halfway through regretting. And while the Royals didn’t necessarily come out as much on top as they could have with this deal, it is easy to see that the Royals got the better of this deal.




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One Response to “Trade Retrospective: Jonathan Broxton to Reds”

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  1. Matthew Murphy says:

    Not sure you can say that giving Holland the closer role mid-season was a win for the Royals, as the 16 saves he picked up in the last two months 2012 may actually drive his arbitration up more than the ~1.5 Million they would have paid Broxton over that same period.

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