The July 31st trade deadline came and went on Tuesday, but the Reds certainly didn't stay idle. In a move that surprised many and puzzled others, Cincinnati opted to bolster their biggest strength (bullpen) rather than improve upon one of their areas of weakness (leadoff). They did so by acquiring RHP Jonathan Broxton from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for prospects LHP Donnie Joseph and RHP J.C. Sulbaran. While the trade initially received negative reaction from Reds Nation, and myself for that matter, upon further review this deal makes more sense than you might think.
Yes, the Reds are making a bit of a gamble in not addressing their woes at the leadoff slot, but adding a little insurance to Major League Baseball's top bullpen (2.61 ERA) isn't necessarily a bad idea. GM Walt Jocketty obviously felt the club needed a right-handed hammer with experience in the backend and did his due diligence in finding one. However, it didn't come without a cost.
Joseph is definitely a tough player to see the Reds deal away as many felt he can/could contribute to a big league 'pen right now already. The 24-year old has tore it up between split time in Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville this season where he posted an 8-3 record, 18 saves and a tidy 1.72 ERA. This is a huge improvement over the 6.94 ERA he posted in 57 games at the Double-A level last season. So, in reference to the old adage of "selling high", this may have been the best time to trade the up-and-coming southpaw. The fact that Joseph is also left-handed made him slightly more dispensable as well. The Reds currently have two lefties in Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman to close out games, and will have Marshall doing so through at least the end of 2015 (when his contract expires).
Sulbaran, rated by MLB.com as the organization's fifth-best prospect, was having a decent season in Pensacola (7-7, 4.04 ERA), but his minor league careers numbers (25-24, 4.68 ERA, 1.492 WHIP) suggests that he may never become any more than a spot starter in the major leagues. Time will tell on the 22-year old, but dealing him away shouldn't come back to haunt the Reds anytime soon.
What Cincy received in return is a two-time All-Star who's having a bounce back campaign after injury cut his 2011 season short. After succumbing to a season-ending injury after playing in just 14 games in '11, Broxton has recorded a 2.27 ERA and 23 saves in 35 appearances in 2012. The 28-year old also has plenty of experience in the postseason as he's appeared there three different times throughout his career, all with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Having him to go along with Marshall to help setup and spell Chapman should prove valuable down the stretch.
With that said, Broxton appears to be the classic example of a so-called "rental player". He's slated to hit free agency at season's end and may wind up being too pricey for Cincy's wallet should they try and re-sign him. He's currently making $4M this year, but would likely be drawing a much greater paycheck in years to come if he stays healthy.
All in all, the Reds did well in solidifying their potent relief core even more by adding Broxton. It looks like they're going to roll the dice with what they have offensively, which could eventually hurt them in October or worse, in the regular season. However, if the Reds fail in their attempt to make a deep run in the playoffs it won't likely be because of the 'pen. That my friends, is their greatest strength and the best in all of baseball.