MLB Free Agency: What Closers Could Be on the Cincinnati Reds' Radar?
The Reds had one of the most dominant closers in all of baseball last season. Aroldis Chapman wowed fans and opposing players with pitches regularly topping the 100 mph mark, but the team isn't quite satisfied with his current role.
As I noted in my last article, the Reds have yet to determine what role Chapman will occupy in the 2013 season.
While I'm an advocate of keeping Chapman as the team's closer, there's a serious possibility that the team could move him to the starting rotation.
According to team GM Walt Jocketty and MLB.com writer Mark Sheldon, that decision hinges on the organization's ability to re-sign Ryan Madson and/or Jonathan Broxton, or sign a closer to replace Chapman.
Here are some possible targets for the Reds this offseason.
Broxton is an obvious candidate for the Reds' closing gig.
The Reds thought highly enough of Broxton to deal for him in the middle of the 2012 season, and it looks like Jocketty is interested in trying to extend him now.
Broxton took the Dodgers closing role full-time in 2009 and has since performed well.
Since 2009, Broxton has converted on 92-of-112 save opportunities. Additionally, in the same time period, Broxton has pitched to a 3.19 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP while striking out 242 batters and walking 83 in 209 innings pitched.
The big thing for Broxton, as far as the Reds should be concerned, is his ability to keep the ball in the park.
Between 2009 and the end of 2012, Broxton has allowed just 12 home runs, including four total in the last two seasons.
Additionally, in the last two seasons, Broxton has yet to allow an inherited runner to score so the team wouldn't be opposed to bringing him in for saves north of one inning in pressure situations.
Broxton is looking for a job as a closer, but he won't come very cheap.
The huge righty made only $4 million in 2012, and you can bet he'll be looking to make $6 million, at the very least, on the open market.
If the Reds are willing to spring for a multi-year deal, Broxton may be their best option.
After years as a successful set-up man, Madson earned himself the Phillies closing role for the 2011 season.
Upon becoming the full-time closer, Madson promptly pitched himself into consideration for a multi-year mega deal as a team's closer.
Madson finished 2011 with a 2.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 62 strikeouts to 16 walks in 60.2 innings pitched.
Madson continued to pitch well in the postseason and looked to be on the verge of signing a large deal. However, last offseason's rumor mill churned out the idea that super-agent Scott Boras dropped the ball on an extension with the Phillies.
That landed Madson with the Reds who signed him to a one-year, $8.5 million-dollar deal. Madson never pitched a game with the Reds in 2012, and he later declined his end of a mutual option for 2013 in pursuit of a multi-year deal.
Despite his age and recent arm problems, Madson will be a highly sought after option for teams seeking closers (i.e. Detroit).
Retaining Madson could prove too difficult for the Reds, who are operating on strict budget constraints.
Jose Valverde had a disastrous season in 2012.
Valverde finished the campaign with an ERA of 3.78, his worst mark since 2006. Additionally, Valverde allowed a 1.25 WHIP, again, his worst since 2006.
Valverde's 48 strikeouts were the second-lowest total of his career, and his peripheral stats (K/9, K/BB, BB/9) were at or near career lows.
Between 2007 and 2011, Valverde was one of the elite relievers in all of baseball. In that span of five seasons, Valverde led his league in saves three times and posted an ERA of 2.74 in 326 appearances.
Valverde will be 35 in 2013, and after a terrible season, he could be a candidate for a low-dollar one-year deal.
The Reds don't have a lot of money to go after a closer, and it's this reason that makes Valverde a definite contender for the gig.
If the Reds go after Valverde, fans better hope that they get the guy who used to dominate the team during his tenure as the Astros' closer in 2007 and 2008.
Soria's situation is similar to the one Madson finds himself in now.
Soria suffered an injury that required season-ending Tommy John surgery in early April. Now, the 28-year-old closer finds himself looking for a new deal, and the Reds are a possible suitor.
Soria struggled in 2011, losing his job as the Royals' closer only to regain it later in the season.
Despite his struggles in his last full season, fans should concern themselves more with Soria's history of success in a closing role.
Between 2008 and 2010, Soria was the Royals' full-time closer and he was as good as anybody.
In those three years, Soria pitched to a 6-7 record with a 1.84 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP while striking out 206 batters and walking 51 in 186 innings pitched.
Soria eclipsed the 40-save mark twice in that time span and averaged 38 saves per year on Royals teams that averaged only 69 wins.
The only problem with Soria is his price tag. Of the four closers I've targeted, Soria ties with Broxton as the youngest. While age is a big factor in who does and doesn't get multi-year deals, it's the fact that Soria has already established himself as an elite closing option that separates him from Broxton.
Ultimately, I think Soria may prove to be out of the Reds' price range.