By JOE KAY
The Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million contract on Wednesday, giving the NL Central champions a potential closer and a chance to reconfigure their starting rotation.
Broxton came to the Reds last July in a trade with Kansas City and was part of their push toward the playoffs. He filled in as the closer when Aroldis Chapman came down with a tired shoulder and had four saves in six chances overall with a 2.82 ERA, impressing the Reds.
Now, they have the option of turning Chapman into a starter, which was the plan last season until closer Ryan Madson tore up his pitching elbow.
Broxton’s deal pays him a $4 million base salary in 2013, $7 million in 2014 and $9 million in 2015. There’s a club option for another year at $9 million with a $1 million buyout. He also got a limited no-trade provision. Broxton gets to pick 10 teams each year that would be acceptable in a trade. If he’s dealt, the club option becomes a mutual option and the buyout increases by $1 million.
It’s Cincinnati’s second big decision of the offseason. The Reds also brought back manager Dusty Baker on a two-year deal. Cincinnati also would like to upgrade its leadoff spot in the batting order.
The 28-year-old Broxton missed most of the 2011 season with the Dodgers because of a bone spur in his elbow that required surgery. He agreed to a $4 million, one-year deal with Kansas City last season, starting as a setup man for closer Joakim Soria. He assumed the closing role in March, when Soria had to have reconstructive elbow surgery.
Broxton had 23 saves in 27 chances for Kansas City. He was surprised when the Reds traded for him, looking to upgrade their setup situation as they closed in on the playoffs.
“He wanted to be in Kansas City long-term because he grew to like it there,” agent B.B. Abbott said. “When he got to Cincinnati, he went with a little bit of a heavy heart. When he got there, he realized this is a pretty great place. He really liked Dusty and the guys in the clubhouse, and the front-office staff was tremendous. He and his wife and family thought in the back of their minds this might be a place to put down some roots.”
Broxton talked to several teams about a multiyear deal before deciding to stick with the Reds, who expect to be a contender. Cincinnati has won the division two of the last three years, losing in the first round of the playoffs both times.
“He thinks this team is plugged in, is ready to win,” Abbott said.
The Reds signed Madson as their closer a year ago, giving him a one-year contract for $8.5 million. There was a mutual option for 2013 at $11 million with a $2.5 million buyout. Madson blew out his elbow during spring training and chose to become a free agent under his buyout.
The Reds planned to use Chapman as a starter last season, seeing how his 100 mph fastball fared in his more accustomed role. When Madson got hurt along with Cincinnati’s two setup relievers during spring training, the Reds moved Chapman to the bullpen and Baker eased him into the closing role.
Chapman saved 27 consecutive chances and was 38 of 43 overall in save opportunities with a 1.55 ERA in 68 appearances. The Reds are hoping to give him a chance to make the rotation next season.