Daily Archives: November 30, 2011

Jonathan Broxton Signs with the Royals: Joakim Soria to be Traded?

Wednesday November 30, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Another reliever is off the market.  On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals announced that they had signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a 1-year contract.  The deal is reported to be for $4 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives.  There will be an official announcement once Broxton passes his physical.  Given his health over the past couple of seasons, there are no guarantees that this deal will go through.  But assuming that Broxton’s elbow has recovered from his September surgery, he should be an official member of the Royals any day now.

There are many significant items to come out of this signing.  Broxton was in heavy demand, with at least a dozen teams interested.  The Royals did have to pay a premium to land him, considering the state of his health in recent times.  Looking at the numbers, Broxton had three solid seasons between 2006-2008 as a middle reliever and part-time closer.  He broke out in a big way in 2009, with 36 saves, 2.61 ERA and 0.961 WHIP.  Broxton’s slide began in 2010 and he was shut down effectively for most of 2011.  The Royals are banking on a return to form for the 27-year old Broxton.  At a reported playing weight of 300 lbs., Broxton will need to come in shape to camp and work hard this offseason to be an effective Major League pitcher.  He is still young and has the arm.  The big variables will be is the health of his elbow and his commitment to conditioning.

Based in Georgia, it is reported that location played a large part in his decision to sign with the Royals.  With an up-and-coming Royals team, Broxton could be a good fit as the team looks to be a playoff contender in the near future.  At worst, the team will lose $4 million for a season.  But the upside could be a very effective setup man or closer at a reasonable rate.  A low risk- high reward proposition for the Royals.  So now, where does this leave Joakim Soria?  The Royals have denied interest in moving their top closer.  I would disagree.  Regardless of whether the Broxton signing goes through, it is my gut feeling that Joakim Soria will not be a Royal come 2012.

 The Royals have set themselves up quite nicely in the bullpen.  After Soria and Broxton, the team still has Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Greg Holland, among others, as setup men and possible closing options.  If Broxton were to take over as closer for Soria in 2012, this would allow the other members of the pen to develop and grow.  At least one of these bullpen candidates could be groomed into a closer by late 2012 or 2013.  The options are there for the Royals.  In fact, with so many valuable bullpen arms, the team could even try Aaron Crow into the rotation.  I see his fit likely best in the bullpen, but at the least the option is there…and options are a good thing.  When I look at Joakim Soria though, I see a valuable chip that can be moved to better the team in the long term.

After four strong seasons in the Royals pen, Soria is coming off a weak 2011 by his standards.  He still finished with 28 saves, but also had a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP.  The Royals have to ask themselves a couple of questions.  Given Soria’s arm troubles in the past, could he get injured?  Also, will 2011 be a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come?  Let’s face it: pitchers, especially relievers, are injury risks.  To compound possible health issues, closers are at risk to implode at any time and lose their job.  Soria has been outstanding for several seasons.  Is he the next Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon? Or another B.J. Ryan or Bobby Thigpen?  None of us can look into a crystal ball and tell.  But what we do now is that there are only a handful of closers in major league history that were effective long term and consistently reliable for their careers.  For every Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman, there are hundreds of closers that were strong early in their career and faded.  With the Royals about 2-3 seasons away from contending, Soria is a luxury that they cannot afford to keep at this stage.

For a team looking to acquire Soria, he is signed to a very reasonable contract.  He will make $6 million in 2012 and has 2 team options for 2013-2014 at approximately $8 million per season.  The Royals can choose to keep Soria and perhaps be set at the closer position for another decade.  Or they can keep a reliever that can be injured or ineffective in 2012, thus discounting heavily his trade value.  They also run the risk of losing Soria as a free agent after the 2014 season.  The point is that the longer they wait, the less the Royals will get back for Soria.  With Broxton and company in the bullpen, the Royals would easily find themselves a setup man and closer for 2012 without likely missing a beat.  But given what Soria can bring back in trade value, this is a move that likely should and will happen.

Despite denials from both the Blue Jays and Royals, some outlets have reported discussions of a Colby Rasmus for Joakim Soria swap.  Not a bad move for either team.  I don’t see this trade happening, unless the Royals include another prospect bat (i.e. Wil Myers) and the Blue Jays include a top starting pitching prospect.  The Blue Jays have a glut of outfielders in their system, including Jose Bautista, Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames and Anthony Gose.  The Jays can afford to move an outfielder to acquire the closer they seek.  The top free agent closer at this point is Heath Bell.  At 34-years of age, I would not be terribly excited to give him the 3-year contract he seeks.  Plus he would prefer to play on the West Coast?  Ryan Madson?  To come close to the 4-year, $44 million contract that the Phillies reportedly offered him would be ludicrous, given that he only has 1 full season of closing experience.  For the Jays, given age, contract and ability, their top target should be Soria.  The team was looking at Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies- a sign that they do not want to grab a closer off the scrapheap.  They want the real deal.

Rasmus has the potential to be an all-star and top outfielder for years to come.  A big price for the Jays to pay.  One that I just don’t see happening.  Rasmus though will be the price unless the Jays can offer a good package for Soria.  I think that they have the will and the ability to make this deal happen.  Travis Snider will be the first prospect to be included in the package.  He has not shown enough in Toronto and likely needs a change of scenery at this point to thrive.  The offensive and defensive potential of this young outfielder are still there.  At 23-years of age, the Royals would be acquiring a former 1st round pick who should be major league ready for them in 2012.  But what else to include?  I could see 1-2 pitching prospects heading to Kansas City.  But the name I am stuck on is Brandon Morrow.  Acquired from the Mariners for Brandon League, the 27-year old Morrow has pitched two fairly inconsistent seasons in the Jays rotation.  He has electric stuff, as shown by his 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings this past season.  He is an enigma, much like Edwin Jackson.  Some of the best stuff in baseball but unable for some reason to consistently put it together for a full season.  The 28-year old Jackson will likely obtain a 3-year deal in the $50 million range this offseason.  Considering that Morrow is controllable for another 3 seasons, he could be attractive for the Royals as a potential top starter.

The Soria for Morrow and Snider swap should benefit both the Jays and Royals in the short and long term.  Some people may be surprised that the Jays would move Morrow.  But given the depth of young starters in their system and perhaps waning confidence in Morrow, the time might be right for him to move on.  Thames has already moved ahead of Snider on the depth chart, with Gose likely ready in the next couple of seasons.  The time is also right for Snider to find a new home and advance his career.  I can see the combination of Moustakas, Butler, Snider, Myers and company pounding out runs for the Royals for many seasons.  Joakim Soria, on the other hand, could be signed to a long-term deal by the Jays and become the top closer they have craved for at least the next five seasons.  A good old fashioned baseball trade that benefits both teams.

So there we have it folks.  Jonathan Broxton is likely to become a Royal very soon.  If he does come on board, the Royals are in great shape to move Joakim Soria and fill out some needs in their outfield and starting rotation.  But even if the Broxton deal falls through, the Royals have the depth to still trade their closer.  The Blue Jays, with one of the top systems in baseball, have the pieces to make a deal with the Royals.  Don’t count out Alex Anthopoulos and Dayton Moore.  These are two of the sharpest GMs in baseball.  Neither one will show their hands until they play their cards.  Expect a deal to possibly come as soon as the Winter Meetings.  The MLB reports crystal ball appears to be very clear on a deal of this magnitude coming.  Stay tuned!

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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What Is The Future Of The Tampa Bay Rays?

Wednesday November 30, 2011

Sam Evans: Ever since the Rays organization eliminated mistakes from their front office, and combined traditional scouting with advanced numbers, they have produced a winning baseball team in the hardest division in baseball. Unfortunately for the Rays, nobody in Tampa Bay noticed. The Rays have only finished in the top-ten in attendance in the AL twice in their fourteen years of existence. Tampa Bay has the ugliest ballpark in baseball, and now the only question is: How long will they be able to stay there?

What the Rays have done in the last five years is extremely impressive. They have won the division twice and won the wild card once in the last five years despite having the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball. The Rays have discovered market inefficiencies and taken advantage of them. For example, after the 2010 season, the Rays let their top relief pitchers leave in free agency, and they not only received draft compensation, but they easily replaced them in 2011. Also, signing young talented players to long-term deals has been a huge factor in their success. Overall, the Rays have found ways

The Rays have no reason to worry about their on-field product. The team is 368-260 in the last five years, and they show no signs of stopping their pace. They have more pitching depth than almost any other team in baseball, and Evan Longoria is signed through 2016 in what is one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of baseball. Despite having a winning ballclub for four straight years, the Rays are barely filling half of the stadium’s capacity per game.

Low attendances lead to a low payroll, and while the Rays would certainly like a larger payroll, they have still managed to be competitive within the AL East. The new CBA will hurt the teams with the lower payrolls around the league, but it will hit the Rays especially hard. They will no longer be able to take chances on international free agents for a low-cost and they will still be competing with the Red Sox and Yankees revenues.

The main contributor to the Rays low attendance has been the stadium. Tropicana Field is, by far, the worst stadium in baseball. It is the only domed stadium in baseball that is not retractable. The blueprint for the stadium was not well thought out, as evidenced in the catwalks that hang down from the ceiling. The bullpen is are almost nonexistent, and the interior design is the worst in baseball. Not to mention, the ballpark is not at the center of the city’s population unlike most other ballparks in baseball.

After the 2011 postseason, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said that he was disappointed about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay. That is a very bad sign for Rays fans. Sternberg is not a bad owner, and has shown dedication to making the Rays a more popular franchise in Tampa Bay. The Rays have tried everything to get fans to come to the ballpark, from Vuvezelas to a touch tank to a new enlarged scoreboard. Sadly, none of those techniques have worked to this day.

The Rays technically are signed through 2027 according to St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster. This contract that the Rays have with the city states that the Rays cannot enter discussions with other communities. However, with the right lawyer, the Rays would be able to escape this lease agreement. If the Rays can’t find a place to build a stadium in South Florida, then there are many cities that would love to host a Major League franchise. If the Rays are forced to move, then Las Vegas is the perfect fit. It is very sad to watch a team not be able to sell out a game in the ALDS.

I really feel bad for those devoted Rays fans. Living in Seattle, I had to go through the process of losing our hometown basketball team, the Sonics. It was a very similar situation where you could sort of sense the relocation coming. The stadium was not up to par, and the league was impatient. I’m not sure if baseball will ever thrive in Tampa Bay, but I am definitely rooting for this organization to find a way to boost attendances and keep their team in Tampa.

 ***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

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