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.
The Reds have told Chapman to prepare for next season as a starter, although they haven't committed to Broxton as the closer.
"Nothing's in stone right now," assistant general manager Bob Miller said. "We told (Chapman) before he left to prepare because that's the hardest part — starter. When we talked to Jonathan we said he was going to be at the back end of the bullpen. What happens depends on spring training and how things play out in the offseason."
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.
Broxton wanted a multiyear deal so he could settle in one place. He didn't insist on assurances he'd be a closer.
"I went into the offseason with an open mind," Broxton said, on a conference call. "I've got experience in both roles. Even if Chapman doesn't work out as a starter, he can come back in and fill in as the closer. I'll be happy to throw the eighth (inning). It doesn't matter. You saw what he did last year."
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.
Broxton's agent, B.B. Abbott, 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.
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 expressed an interest in keeping Madson while he continues his comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery. He signed a one-year deal on Wednesday with the Angels.
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.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay