CINCINNATI -- The Reds made efforts to swing deals up until to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, especially for a leadoff hitter.
In the end, general manager Walt Jocketty made just one move, and it was a deal that no one predicted. Cincinnati acquired Royals closer Jonathan Broxton for Minor League pitchers Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran.
"We have several deals for position players that we looked at. In the end, we just felt we liked what we had," Jocketty said just after the Deadline expired. "The deals just didn't make sense for us, so we focused on pitching. We said at the beginning we were looking for a leadoff hitter, a cleanup hitter and bench help or try to strengthen our pitching. The position-player deals just weren't right for us. We felt good having an arm like Broxton."
|"We wanted to do what we could now to strengthen the pitching staff the best we can, and this was the one move we felt helps the bullpen and hopefully carries us strong into September."|
|-- GM Walt Jocketty|
"I'm going somewhere where I'm picking up 20, 25 games right now," Broxton said. "I enjoyed my time here and I appreciate everything everybody did but this is part of baseball. So I'm going over there and hopefully we can win a division."
The move was surprising, since the Reds already possess strong bullpen depth and their relief has been stellar this season. But some in the organization felt there had been a drop-off in recent weeks, and the club wanted to both position itself to be deep for an postseason push and to have an experienced closer who could spell current closer Aroldis Chapman.
Cincinnati's bullpen entered the day leading the Majors with a 2.66 ERA and 20 victories.
"I kind of saw it coming, but I didn't see Cincinnati," Broxton said. "But they were real aggressive late -- that's what Dayton [Moore, Royals GM] said -- and I'm just going to go over there and hopefully I can help them win a division."
"He's a guy that closed in L.A. and was a closer because [Joakim] Soria got injured in Kansas City," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Broxton. "Here's a guy that can setup. On days Chapman goes two or three days in a row, he can close. It gives us some more strength and a power arm in the bullpen.
"We said in spring, you can never have enough pitching."
The Reds' bullpen will get even deeper sometime in August when Nick Masset returns from the disabled list. Masset, currently on a rehab assignment, hasn't pitched in the big leagues all season because of a shoulder injury.
Prospects acquired by Royals
- JC Sulbaran, RHP: Ranked No. 5 on the Reds' Top 20 at the time of the trade, Sulbaran has gone from on the radar to off of it to back on it over the past few years. A 2009 Futures Gamer, he had trouble staying healthy and harnessing his outstanding stuff, but he started to put it together in 2011 when he threw extremely well in the hitter-friendly California League. He has the chance to have three above-average or better offerings with his fastball, curve (which is plus) and changeup. In Double-A this year, he was still missing bats and had actually cut his hit rate down, but his walk rate has crept back up. If he can refine his command, he's still plenty young enough (22) and has more than enough stuff to be an excellent starter.
- Donnie Joseph, LHP: Joseph ranked No. 7 on the Reds' Top 20 at the time of the trade and he's just about big league ready. The left-handed reliever taken in the 2009 Draft misses a ton of bats, striking out better than 12 per nine innings in his career to date. He's clearly moved past a rough 2011 where he struggled with command both in and out of the strike zone, using a strong Arizona Fall League season as a springboard to a season that had him leading the organization in saves. Even if he doesn't close in the big leagues, he should have a long career as a lefty setup man.
- Top 20 Prospects: Royals | Reds
- -- Jonathan Mayo
"Nick is still a couple of weeks away," Jocketty said. "We wanted to do what we could now to strengthen the pitching staff the best we can, and this was the one move we felt helps the bullpen and hopefully carries us strong into September."
A member of the Dodgers from 2005-11, Broxton sports a 26-22 record with a 3.11 ERA in 422 games with 107 saves in eight seasons. Sulbaran, 22, is 7-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 19 starts with Double-A Pensacola this season, with 111 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings. He entered the season ranked as the Reds organization's No. 5 prospect by MLB.com. Joseph, 24, is 8-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 44 games between Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville this season. He was rated the No. 7 prospect in the organization by MLB.com.
The Reds were linked mostly to leadoff hitters in speculation and rumors throughout July. Cincinnati strongly pursued Twins center fielder Denard Span through Monday but did not pull the trigger. They were also believed to be interested in the Phillies' Shane Victorino and Juan Pierre. Span and Pierre stayed put while Victorino was traded to the Dodgers.
"Very hard," Jocketty classified his pursuit. "We worked very hard on a couple of those guys. In the end, we felt those deals weren't what we were comfortable doing right now."
Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players clear waivers. A player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.
The Reds entered Monday with a 14-3 record since the All-Star break and 61-41 overall, good for first place by three games over the Pirates in the National League Central.
Several hitters -- namely Ryan Ludwick, Brandon Phillips and Drew Stubbs -- have stepped up their production considerably. Much of the success has also come since Joey Votto went down for left knee surgery on July 17.
It was enough to lessen the Reds' urgency to add a hitter.
"We told some of the clubs we were dealing with that we'd continue to look at it and if we can make a waiver deal, we'll try to do that," Jocketty said. "But we've seen improvement from a lot of our guys. Our offense is going to continue to get better because there is a lot of talent there."