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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Tuesday October 18, 2011
Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Depending on the type of fantasy league, high strikeout pitchers hold varying degrees of value. In 5 X 5 Roto League’s, strikeouts are crucial as they represent one of the five pitching categories. Furthermore, strikeout ratios are indicative of a pitcher’s future success. Needless to say, the more a pitcher misses the bat of a hitter, the more primed he is to retire batters. As I touched upon this subject a few weeks ago in my piece about the value of setup men, today, I shift the focus to starting pitchers who look to finish atop the strikeout rankings in 2012.
In 2011, the 25-year-old right-hander busted onto the scene with a 7-3 record, 3.68 ERA, and 1.21 WHIP in 141.2 innings. However, the real value he provided was the 169 strikeouts, a 10.74 K/9 ratio that ranked him first among starting pitchers. Undoubtedly, Beachy will be a highly valued player entering the 2012 season, yet I still think many owners still undervalue him. Many owners will be impressed, but not wowed by his ERA and WHIP numbers, which are right on par with Jamie Garcia’s 3.56 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. However, Garcia struck out just 156 batters in 194 innings. If pitchers are not contributing to the strikeout category, he needs to be VERY good in the others, and it will be difficult for a player to do so with out the ability to miss bats. This helps explains Garcia jump in ERA from 2.70 in 2010 to 3.56 in 2011.
Beachy’s strikeout ratio indicates that his rookie season was no fluke. He has the ability to miss bats and therefore should not see a regression in his numbers. He was consistent throughout the year and actually struck out more batters as the season progressed. Furthermore, his .300 BAPIP indicates that he was not a product of good fortune. He is the real deal and has potential to provide terrific value in all give pitching categories and looks to be among the elite in strikeouts. Beachy’s more well-known teammate, Tommy Hanson, it also a pitcher who is among the games best strikeout pitchers – improving his rate in each of his three seasons in the major leagues.
Brandon Morrow (10.19 K/9)
Cory Luebke (9.92 K/9)
Anibal Sanchez 9.26 K/9)
Jonathan Sanchez (9.06 K/9)
Matt Garza (8.95 K/9)
Gio Gonzalez (8.78 K/9)
Although these pitchers are by no means fantasy aces, their fantasy value is often hidden and undiscovered by owners. They are often lumped into the same category as players with similar ERA and WHIP numbers (e.g. Mark Buehrle). However, their potential for strikeouts can give an owner valuable extra points. While no means must-start players, if you use the Garza, Gonzalez’s, Morrows, etc in favorable matchups, don’t be surprised to see them produce ‘five category’ Lincecum-like starts. Just don’t start them against the better half of the league’s top offensive teams. It is all about finding the edges, and strikeouts are a category that many owners are first to ignore. Therefore, I strongly suggest you fill your tougher innings with such players that can help you finish at the top of this category. If a player is putting up strong ERA and WHIP numbers without the strikes, it is more likely to be a fluke. Therefore, to be safe and to finish atop the K category, target the players who show the best ability to make major league hitters swing and miss.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein. 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 Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***
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