Tonka Broxton (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The trade deadline is an invariably unsatisfying event. It holds hostage my attention for a good week leading up to it, culminating in a final six hours or so of constant vigilance and rapid-fire browser refreshing. It is an event of great drama and mystery amidst a long season of slowly-developing story lines. And then the Reds get a relief pitcher and it all seems hardly worth all the time and energy I put into it. But really, just about anything would hardly seem worth it. But that has more to do with me and just how much time and energy I put into it. Which is way, way too much.
So the Reds got Jonathan Broxton. And that's it. There were plenty of rumors of potential trades for players like Denard Span, Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Juan Pierre, Matt Garza, and many more, but ultimately none of those deals worked out. Here's what Walt Jocketty had to say about it: "We said at the beginning we were going to try to look for a leadoff hitter, a cleanup hitter, bench help, or try to strengthen our pitching. The position player deals just weren’t right for us, and we felt good about adding an arm like Broxton." So yeah, we would have liked to have gotten a lead off hitter who got on base well, but the asking prices were too rich for Walt. We won't ever really know for sure what those asking prices were, so it's difficult to make any judgments about their prudence. We just have to trust that Walt knows what he's doing here.
Plan A didn't work out (a lead off hitter), and neither did Plan B (a clean up hitter). Plan C might still be in the works (the Reds are still probably talking to the Diamondbacks about the recently DFA'd Lyle Overbay), so the best they could muster was Plan D (adding to the bullpen). So we didn't really get what we wanted. Neither did Walt. We're all unsatisfied.
So while we didn't necessarily get everything we wanted, we did get Jonathan Broxton. Bullpen help seems the last thing the Reds need right now, but you can never really have too much good pitching. Speaking of, the Reds got him for a pair of minor league arms, JC Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph. Sulbaran is a promising though inconsistent young arm and Joseph is a bullpen lefty with strikeout stuff. If you were following the deadline news in real time here at Red Reporter, you may have noticed that a number of our loyal readers disapproved of the deal. Here are a few of the reactions: "This is idiotic." And this one: "That's fricking stupid, Walter. Bullpen arms always cost too much." And my personal favorite, (edited for content): "Well this is a (humping) (buttocks)headed deal. Jesus (humping) (g-darned) Christ, just PROMOTE JOSEPH then. Don't trade him for 300 lb of (excrement) in a 200 lb bag."
It's probably unfair to hold those folks accountable for these reactions though. We were all really keyed up from the hours and hours of speculation and ultimately frustrated that this - this - was the only move the Reds made. Because in reality, I don't think it's a bad move at all. It may not be a terrific deal, but I don't think it's a bad one.
First off, let's take a look at Broxton. He's a big strong righty with a big strong fastball and a big strong history of getting strikeouts and closing games. From '06-'10, he averaged 73 innings per season with a very impressive 3.32 K/BB ratio and a 1.187 WHIP. He made the All-Star team twice. He was one of the best relief pitchers in the National League. Then in 2011, he had a number of elbow and shoulder issues that limited him to just 12.2 innings. The Dodgers let him go at the end of the year and he signed on with the Royals for this season. He's been healthy this year, but his numbers haven't. He's piled up 23 meaningless saves and an impressive 2.27 ERA, but his strikeouts are way, way down. Like, almost cut in half from what he was doing in his four previous healthy seasons. So some Reds fans may look at him and think Walt paid a premium price for a guy with a lot of saves but no fundamental numbers to back it up.
But I think any all analysis of this deal should be prefaced with "it's all just relief pitching". Broxton was a great relief pitcher as recently as a year and a half ago, and he looks healthy now throwing 95 mph. He's thrown only 35.2 innings this season, which isn't much of a sample from which to draw any legitimate conclusions. Maybe he's lost his strikeout stuff, but his groundball rate is great. Maybe he's a completely different pitcher, or maybe he's not. Either way, he's probably still pretty good. Or maybe he isn't. See, that's the thing with relief pitchers. They are like women. Who the F knows what's going on.
These axioms can be applied to our evaluations of both Sulbaran and Joseph as well. I think Joseph is the more valuable pitcher of the two, as he's dominated every minor league level and looks to be perfectly ready to step into the Royals' bullpen tonight. Some think he even has closer-potential. Sulbaran has been inconsistent as a starter so far in his young career, and some think he'll end up in the bullpen, too. If he hangs on as a starter, his ceiling is likely as a back-end rotation guy. So yeah, I'm pretty confident in saying these guys are both relievers. Just relief pitching. And as volatile as relief pitching is, I find it hard to get too worked up about it.