Broxton happy to remain part of Reds' bullpen
Reliever lands three-year deal; Cincinnati may move Chapman into rotation
CINCINNATI -- Before the Reds make any decision about moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, they had to be sure they had a capable and experienced closer ready to step up.
The club felt that person was free-agent reliever Jonathan Broxton, who was re-signed Wednesday to a three-year, $21 million contract. The deal includes a $9 million club option for 2016 and a limited no-trade clause. If he is traded, it becomes a $22 million contract with a mutual option.
"Last year when I got traded, it was to a great team. I had a lot of fun there," Broxton said. "There were a lot of young guys that can really do something in the future. And the Reds were really aggressive with me in the offseason. I loved it there when I was there. It helped out that I had some experience there when I was with them."
Broxton, 28, was acquired by Cincinnati from Kansas City in a Trade Deadline deal on July 31 for Minor League pitchers J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph. The aim of the trade was to have Broxton be a setup man to help with the playoff push and a backup closer for Chapman.
The Reds also had designs on retaining Broxton after the season.
"We had that feeling when we traded for him," Reds assistant general manager Bob Miller said. "That was one of the reasons we were willing to give up those two young pitchers for Jonathan. We looked at him as something past a short term two months. He was somebody we'd like to have in the organization for a good, long while."
In 60 appearances totaling 58 innings, Broxton posted a 2.48 ERA, 27 saves, 56 hits, 17 walks and 45 strikeouts. While Chapman missed 10 days with shoulder fatigue in September, Broxton took over the ninth and was 4-for-4 in save chances.
Broxton earned $4 million on his one-year contract in 2012. With his new contract, he will again earn $4 million in '13, $7 million in '14 and $9 million in '15. The '16 option buyout is worth $1 million. Not a coincidence is that Broxton will be fully vested in the Major League pension in three years.
Over an eight-year career with the Dodgers, Royals and Reds, Broxton has a 3.10 ERA and 111 saves.
Getting a chance to pitch in the back end of the bullpen was the only assurance Broxton wanted -- whether or not it was closing. His priority was to pitch for a contender.
"As long as we're winning at the end of the day, I don't care if I pitch the seventh, eighth, ninth or 10th," Broxton said. "It doesn't matter to me. As long as we're winning, I'm happy."
The path now appears paved for the Reds to move Chapman into the rotation -- something that they wanted to do in 2012 before three injuries crushed the bullpen during Spring Training, namely closer Ryan Madson's season-ending elbow ligament tear.
Cincinnati initially tried using Sean Marshall as the closer last season before Chapman was installed in the ninth-inning role by manager Dusty Baker on May 20.
Chapman, 24, brought electricity and often dominance as a first-time closer while he racked up 38 saves in 43 chances, including a franchise single-season record 27 consecutive saves from June 26-Sept. 4. Overall, he was 5-5 with a 1.51 ERA, 23 walks and 122 strikeouts in 68 appearances as the Reds won the National League Central.
However, a switch to the rotation for the Cuban left-hander is not formally set in stone.
"We told him before he left to prepare like he's coming in [to start]. That's the harder part, preparing to be a starter," Miller said. "When we talked to Jonathan, we said you're going to be in the back end of the bullpen. What happens will play out in Spring Training. It depends on what other moves we make in the offseason. There are concerns with Chapman's innings and things like that. Everything will play itself out. We just added another great arm to the bullpen. Pitching is going to win us championships."
Chapman was signed to a six-year, $30.25 million contract in January 2010 and was originally expected to be a starter. The Reds sent him to Triple-A Louisville to develop as a starter before switching him to reliever midway and calling him up to pitch out of the bullpen down the stretch.
In 2011, Chapman was a mostly successful setup man, but the hope was to still have him start in 2012. During camp last spring, he had a 2.12 ERA in five games (four starts), and had the best starting pitcher numbers before circumstances forced a change of direction.
If Chapman was unsuccessful in the transition, he could always return to closing and Broxton was willing to return to a setup role.
"I will be happy to go to the eighth. It doesn't matter to me," Broxton said. "You saw what he did last year. He's electric. It's up to Dusty and the ownership what they want to do with him. It's not in my hands."