August 22, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Chapman throws in the ninth inning during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Reds defeated the Phillies, 3-2. (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

Broxton a Red for Three Years; Chapman to Rotation?


The news is still somewhat fresh (like that can occur in these days of 24/7 news) and the “results” are mixed.

Sep 11, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Broxton pitches during the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Pirates 5-3. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Reds have re-signed reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21MM deal.  The new package has yearly salaries of $4MM for 2013, $7MM for 2014 and $9MM for 2015.  There is also a team option (per Joe Kay of the AP on Twitter) for a fourth year at $9MM with a $1MM buyout.  If Broxton is traded, the final year of the deal has a slight change.  The buyout is upped to $2MM and becomes a mutual option.

On paper, this signing looks like the way for Aroldis Chapman to join the starting rotation has clearly been paved.

But has it? Not so fast according to Reds assistant general manager Bob Miller

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/johnfayman/status/273820699200741377"]

If there’s one thing we have witnessed, it has been how electric Chapman can be as a closer.  But there is something that Fay adds that would give anyone a pause.

I think it’s the right thing to do with Chapman. He is electric as a closer. But he converted 38 saves in 43 tries this year. Francisco Cordero converted 37 in 43 tries in 2011.

From the day Chapman inked a deal with the Redlegs, the plan has always been to have him on board as a starter. It is Chapman’s preference to start.

And what’s with this “comparing” Chapman to Cordero?  It’s not so much a comparison.  It’s a simple matter of results.

As much as Coco provided Reds fans with moments of extreme anxiety, the end results for Cordero in ’11 were similar to those of Chapman in ’12.  No, I’m not referring to Cordero’s stats. I’m not referring to his pitch repertoire either. Cordero doesn’t own (or has likely never owned) a 100+ MPH pitch.  He isn’t one to toss a devastating slider the way Chapman can. Yet, the bottom line suggests the end game is much the same whether it was Coco in his last year as a Red or Chapman closing out a game last season.

Yes, there is the oft-heard “fear factor” that Chapman puts into the heads of opposing batters.  The only issue I have ever had with such is that you know the ol’ #1 is coming.  No need to fret about that slider.

Now, that slider will have to be more prevalent as well as developing the changeup.  Oh, and have we actually seen a curveball from him?

You might be one that’s hesitant to move Chapman to the rotation due in part because of what occurred this past season with the Texas Rangers.  Neftali Feliz was, in the eyes of some, as legit a closer as there was.  The Rangers moved Feliz into their starting rotation in the spring.  Feliz had his 2012 come to an end after only seven games and have to have surgery.

Like Chapman, the plan had been for Feliz to be a starter for them as well. Until Felix broke in with the Rangers in 2010, his primary role in the minors was that of a starter.  He started 57 of 83 games while accruing only two saves.  Those saves came when Feliz was in the Atlanta Braves organization, his first year in organized baseball.  Nary a save after that year (2006) until he reached the majors.

When Feliz returns from a torn UCL, he might be used, at first, in the ‘pen.  This move is not because the Rangers do not want Feliz as a starter, but in order to aid the healing process. I suspect he will ultimately be a starter for the Rangers.

There’s the money issue.  Those “mixed results” I referred to at the beginning were from those that believe the Reds may have overspent in order to retain Brox.  Three years and $21MM does seem a little hefty, pardon the pun. He’s due $4MM for next season.  Considering what some closers are making these days, that’s practically a steal.  Some Reds fans are giving Ryan Madson the business because he made a tidy sum of $8.5MM from the team and didn’t deliver a single pitch.

Look at it this way, too.  Moving Chapman to the rotation is of far greater value.  His salary for next year will be…$2MM.  Add a $1.5MM portion of his signing bonus as I discussed earlier today.  How may teams would love a talent like Chapman in their starting rotation for a “mere” $3.5MM?

I can answer that…every one of them, Rangers included.

Granted, Chapman hasn’t had a lot of experience starting. He has yet to start a major league game. In 2010, he did start 13 games while he was in Louisville. He has all of five spring training start. To set this up for you…

I received an email from a colleague asking about the availability of Mike Leake due to, at that time, the potential signing of Broxton. As I told him, I think there could now be a blueprint in place on how to handle such situations as the one regarding Chapman. The Braves have created that and how they handled Kris Medlen last year after he returned from TJ. They eased him into a starter’s role by having him as a reliever. While Medlen performed well as a reliever, the real results came once he was added to the starting rotation.

Yes, there is the difference of returning from reconstructive surgery, but I think it can work under these circumstances as well.

To add, imagine if the Washington Nationals had taken the same route with Stephen Strasburg that the Braves took with Medlen. Strasburg would have been available during the playoffs. The outcome could have been different for the Nats in the NLDS.

And I am well aware of what is on the horizon here. The first start where Chapman struggles will create Twitter chatter for him to return to the ‘pen. The first time Broxton blows a save will create the same that demand Chapman be moved back to the role of closer.

It’s inevitable.

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Tags: Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds

  • Scott Shrewsberry

    Steve,
    I know I’m probably in the minority by saying this in my totally “uninformed, clueless, have no idea what the heck I’m talking about” opinion, but I really don’t want Chapman to start. I just keep thinking of Joba Chamberlin for some reason. I personally don’t think Chapman can control nor maintain that 100 mph fastball for 6+ innings. If I’m not mistaken, a couple of years ago he was completely gassed against the Padres when he had to close 3 games in a row. He couldn’t get the ball much over 90 and he had no control. He’s no Verlander. He’s not yet that stable mentally or physically. If he were to stay in the pen and hone those skills he could be a Mariano Rivera type of closer. 1 or 2 pitches that no one can touch and it’s lights out. However, he may be able to develop those skills as a starter. Who knows? Again, just my opinion and I hope I’m wrong and he totally makes me eat crow.

    • http://blogredmachine.com/ Steve O’Red

      Sometimes eating crow isn’t too bad. Lord knows I’ve had to a time or two in my day…
      Interesting that you bring up Joba. The next post that hits will touch upon some of your concerns.

    • beeker

      I’m in your minority, Scott. I love the pressure that he must put on opponents as he paces the bullpen like a caged tiger staring down his prey, awaiting the moment he will be turned lose to pounce.

      Clearly the front office wants him to start. Much of the fan base wants him to start. And apparently he wants to start. So we give it a shot and see what happens. But there is no way he can throw that hard consistently. He’d wear himself out if he tries to.