Jonathan Broxton is really good. A year ago, few would have disagreed with the statement that Broxton was the best closer in baseball, and it seemed inconceivable that the Los Angeles Dodgers would let him go anywhere. Broxton struggled down the stretch however, and even lost the closing job for a while.
With Hong-Chih Kuo's emergence as an elite reliever, the Dodgers' ownership issues, and Broxton's soon-to-be expiring contract Jonathan Broxton could be on the move. Despite a few blown saves in 2010, he's still seen as an elite closer in Major League Baseball, and his age makes a long term contract feasible.
Where might Jonathan Broxton be headed? And will he be moved now? This summer? Maybe not at all? Let's take a look.
With a year left on Prince Fielder's deal, the Milwaukee Brewers were put in an interesting position entering this off-season. On one hand, they could move Fielder and try to stock a farm system that was dangerously week. On the other hand, the Brewers could go all out and try to win now, capturing an NL-Central that may still be within their sights.
With this in mind, you have to think the Brewers could use Broxton. This is a team with a very strong lineup, led by Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, and Ricky Weeks. They also have a very strong rotation, headlined by Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum. Their one weakness is the bullpen, a bullpen that ranked 26th in baseball last season by ERA. John Axford did a fine job as the teams closer last season, but as a 28-year-old career minor leaguer, his sub-3 ERA has to be called into question, and his shaky control is still a concern. Even if the Brewers trust Axford, the rest of their bullpen is a big question mark.
Of course, it's not as simple as wanting to trade for Jonathan Broxton and the Brewers farm system is severely depleted. But given their offensive and rotational strengths, the Brewers may be able to build a deal around Major League talent that would satisfy the Dodgers front office and improve Milwaukee in the short term without further damaging their future.
The Texas Rangers may at first seem like an odd destination for Jonathan Broxton. After all, they just traded an excess reliever (Frank Francisco) to the Toronto Blue Jays, and Neftali Feliz is about as stable as a closer can get right now.
But the Rangers have much bigger problems than their bullpen, and that's precisely why Broxton could end up in Texas. Since losing out on Cliff Lee, Nolan Ryan and Co. have tried to fill Lee's spot in their 2011 rotation, but a rotation of CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Brandon Webb, Tommy Hunter, and Derek Holland, while potentially good, is also potentially quite bad.
The answer to the Rangers rotational problems may very well be Neftali Feliz, and if the Rangers front office and management decide that this is the case, they may find themselves in need of a closer. Arthur Rhodes, Darren O'Day, and Darren Oliver are good relievers, but none of them have much experience as closers, and given their current repertoire, they don't seem likely candidates.
The Francisco trade made a Feliz-to-the-rotation move seem far less likely, but at some point next season, if the rotation struggles, this could again become a legitimate options and if Broxton is still available, the Rangers could look in his direction.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a tough off-season. They lost Carl Crawford to Boston, Carlos Pena to Chicago, and Rafael Soriano to New York. Matt Garza was also traded. The roster in Tampa Bay looks a lot different than it did a year ago, when the Rays had the best record in all of baseball at season's end.
But the Rays made a big move to help replace the production lost between Crawford and Pena by signing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Desmond Jennings is a very similar player to Carl Crawford, and while he's unlikely to play at the same level in 2011, he can step up and help fill that void. The loss of Garza should not be significant, as the Rays have the prospects (namely Jeremy Hellickson) to fill his rotation spot.
So while the Rays are not, as of now, considered a contender in the American League East, that could change. If either the Yankees or Red Sox slip up, suffer significant injuries, or struggle for any reason, the Rays could compete for a wild card spot. If that is the case, the Rays will have one major area of need to address - their bullpen. With the right pieces (and the Rays certainly have the right pieces) Jonathan Broxton might be had as a half year rental for Tampa Bay.
When the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee this off-season, they had to spend their money some how. While Brian Cashman preached patience, Yankees ownership had other ideas, and Rafael Soriano will wear pinstripes next year.
Yet while the Yankees improved their bullpen drastically, there are still question marks. Soriano has a history of injuries and a declining strikeout rate. Mariano Rivera is getting up there in age. Joba Chamberlain struggled last season, and a return to the rotation is not out of the question. David Robertson is a big question mark at this point and Pedro Feleciano is a LOOGY.
As of now, the last of the Yankees problems is their bullpen. But an injury to Rivera or Soriano, a struggling eight inning setup, or simply a poor record come this summer could change things. The Yankees are always looking for bullpen help in July. They'll have the pieces, Broxton could be available. It's a long shot, but it could happen.
The Angels have not had an easy time replacing record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez. The Brian Fuentes contract was just short of a disaster, and Fuentes is no longer an Angels. Kevin Jepsen is a good middle reliever, but thus far, nothing more and while Fernando Rodney has been effective, I have my doubts that he's closer material.
The Dodgers were seen as front runners for Rafael Soriano all off-season, up until he signed on the dotted line with New York. They need bullpen help, and while the Dodgers may be hesitant to move Broxton to their (almost) cross-town rivals, the Angels may have the most need, and do have the pieces to get something done.
Only time will tell if this is the year the Angels start to rebuild, or if a retooling is the more appropriate description. If they decide to go for it this year, and with the American League West as open as ever I would not be surprised, they will need to fix their bullpen. Broxton might be the answer.
It seems like Francisco Cordero has been the Reds closer forever, but it's only been three years. Still, Cordero has been relatively successful in those three years and right now his job seems pretty safe. The Red did lose Arthur Rhodes, but their bullpen isn't in bad shape and Cordero isn't on the hot seat.
Can Cordero continue to pitch well? I have my doubts. While Cordero's performance has remained steadily good over the past decade, his stills have begun to erode these last few years. Once a strikeout machine, Cordero struck out just 7.3 batters per nine innings last year, and his control was far bellow average. For a team like the Reds that won the NL Central, and appears poised to compete again, Cordero might not cut it.
Any Broxton to Cincy deal would certainly have to be a mid-season acquisition as, right now, the Reds seem set. But don't be surprised if Cordero struggles out of the gate and you hear some rumblings about the Dodgers closer.
Like the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays are an afterthought in the American League East. But the Jays have been quietly getting better over the past several months, stockpiling Minor League talent, clearing payroll room, and improving their big league club.
Toronto's lineup may be the best in the Major Leagues, but their pitching will be an issue. After Ricky Ricardo and Brandon Morrow, their rotation is a question mark, and while their bullpen has plenty of talent, the Blue Jays front office does not seem satisfied with their closing options.
This is the team that traded Brandon League a year ago, and while Jason Frasor and Scott Downs seemed to compete for the closers role in spring, the job was quickly stolen by Kevin Gregg. Frank Francisco is now also in the mix, and while that gives the Blue Jays three talented closing candidates, none have a good track-record with the job.
Toronto is another long shot. They're a long shot to compete this year, and their bullpen isn't in bad shape. But they have a very nice farm system, and no clear cut closer as of yet. This may be a team to revisit this summer, should they be within striking distance.
Brad Lidge has not exactly had a consistent tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies. He came over from the Astros in the Michael Bourn deal before the 2008 season, and had a career year, leading the Phillies to a World Series. He lost his job the next year, but regained it in 2010 and had another nice year.
Lidge is talented, but he's also very inconsistent and streaky. If Lidges gets off to a bad start next season, he could very easily not hold the Phillies closing duties at the end of the year. Ryan Madson has filled in well in the past, but he's also had his struggles, and Jose Contreras is not a legitimate closing candidate at this point in his career.
Given the talent level on this team, the Phillies need to win the National League East, they need to make the World Series, and they probably need to win it too to satisfy Philly fans. They have the best rotation we've seen since the mid-90s Braves, and one of the better lineups in baseball. They also have a stacked farm system, amazing considering the position it was in a year ago after a trade for Roy Halladay.
Brad Lidge can be a good closer, but Jonathan Broxton might just make sense for this team.
Given all Francisco Rodriguez and the Mets went through last season, it's incredible that, according to Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Rodriguez will be 100% by Spring Training, and the Mets closer on opening day of 2011. That doesn't mean, however, that the Mets might not acquire Broxton.
Rodriguez is a ticking time bomb in many respects. While a good relief pitcher, his skill set has declined in recent season, and it showed in 2010. He's also been involved in several altercations as a member of the Mets, and the club and Rodriguez were involved in a salary dispute the past season after KRod injured his thumb punching his fiances father.
The Mets may not yet be competitive enough for a Broxton deal to make sense, although he'd certainly be a guy to target in the off-season. But they do have talent. If the Mets are in the race at any point next season and trouble with Rodriguez, whether it be performance related or otherwise, arises, Broxton could be targeted.