Royals sign Broxton to set up for Soria
Former Dodgers closer agrees to one-year deal, pending physical
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals added depth and experience to their young bullpen on Tuesday by signing Jonathan Broxton, a free-agent right-hander, to a one-year contract.
The deal, for $4 million plus $1 million in incentives, is pending a physical examination, an important step because Broxton is coming off elbow surgery in September.
General manager Dayton Moore said the plan is to use Broxton, a closer for the Dodgers, in a setup role for Royals closer Joakim Soria.
"He'll be one of our setup guys with [Greg] Holland and others," Moore said.
Moore said there is no plan to try Soria as a starter, a move often speculated in the past, but downplayed in recent years after the right-handed closer had some shoulder issues.
"If we felt that was an area that we were going to commit to, we would have announced it," Moore said. "It'd be a lot easier on everybody."
Later Tuesday during a press briefing, Moore was asked again if starting was a possibility for Soria.
"Probably not," Moore replied. "We've talked about it every year. Ultimately it's a decision that is way down the road. We feel we have opportunities to fill our rotation right now within our organization and we don't have another guy like Soria in the back end.
"People have said we have Greg Holland and other people and I understand that, but we've got to go with what we know and Soria has been very, very good. So we're going to stay with our strengths right now."
Moore also was asked if the acquisition of Broxton might open the way for trading Soria.
"I expect him to be part of our team." Moore said. "Part of our motivation in getting Jonathan, obviously, was to get as many talented pitchers as possible on this staff and get us in a position to shorten games."
Broxton, 27, is a two-time National League All-Star who has compiled 84 saves in 117 chances (72 percent), a 3.19 ERA and a 25-20 record in 386 games for the Dodgers since 2005. In the 2010 All-Star Game at Anaheim, he picked up the save.
A big guy, listed at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Broxton has 503 strikeouts in 382 innings in his career as a reliever. That's a ratio of 11.55 strikeouts per nine innings, third-highest mark in the Majors since 2005 (for pitchers with at least 350 innings). He has issued 163 walks.
Last season Broxton appeared in just 14 games, with seven saves but a 5.68 ERA, before going on the disabled list with bone spurs in his right elbow. He didn't pitch again and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 19.
"He had bone chips removed in September and the success rate in this type of procedure is relatively high, but that's why you give guys physicals," Moore said.
Holland, also a right-hander, emerged as the Royals' primary setup man in the second half of last season as All-Star reliever Aaron Crow tailed off. Called up from Triple-A Omaha on May 19, Holland finished with a 1.80 ERA in 46 games and led the Majors by allowing just two of 33 inherited runners to score (6.1 percent). That was the best percentage in Royals history.
The addition of Broxton gives the Royals not only more depth in the bullpen but a veteran presence to go along with Soria. Last season the bullpen was dominated by rookies, including Holland, Crow, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Nate Adcock and Everett Teaford.
"We tried to put together the best bullpen that we can so we can match up successfully in the late innings," Moore said.
Broxton was the Dodgers' second-round choice in the 2002 Draft. Capable of a 100 mph fastball, he became a setup man for the Dodgers and was a part-time closer in 2008 when Takashi Saito was out with a sore elbow. The next year Saito was gone, Broxton was the closer and recorded a career-high 36 saves, getting his first All-Star berth.
The 2010 season began marvelously for Broxton, with a 0.83 ERA in his first 33 games. But after a 48-pitch outing in a loss to the Yankees on June 27, his performance suffered and he finished with a 4.04 ERA in 64 games plus 22 saves and a 5-6 record.
"He's got a lot of power and he strikes out 11 1/2 [batters] per nine [innings]," Moore said. "He's got a hard slider, too."
Broxton was in three postseasons with the Dodgers and had three saves but also is remembered for two failures involving former Royal Matt Stairs. In Game 4 of the 2008 NL Championship Series, Broxton gave up a home run to Stairs that gave the Phillies a 7-5 victory. In Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, he walked Stairs to start a two-run rally that won it for the Phillies, 5-4. In both years, the Dodgers were eliminated in the next game.
Broxton, his wife, Elizabeth, and son Jonathan Brooks live in Waynesboro, Ga., where he attended Burke County High School.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.