Blue Jays: Free agent bullpen targets with closer’s experience

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Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With the Blue Jays rumored to be targeting relievers with closer’s experience, these relatively budget-friendly veterans could emerge as free agent possibilities

Closing experience is a difficult attribute to come by affordably on the free agent market. If the available reliever has a track record of success in the closer’s role over the past season or two, like Joakim Soria, their multi-year price tag will reflect that. If they’ve maintained a consistently high level of success both inside and outside of the closer’s role over the past few seasons, like Tyler Clippard, it’s the same story. 

That’s what makes the next step difficult for the Toronto Blue Jays, if you’re believing the recent report from Jerry Crasnick that closer’s experience is now a target of LaCava and Shapiro. Roberto Osuna can enter 2016 in that role without much groaning from the masses, but the addition of some ninth inning experience could give the Blue Jays a new setup man, one that fills the spot left by Mark Lowe or even allows for Aaron Sanchez to be flexed into a starting role.

Unless we get a surprise ahead of the non-tender deadline or a contract is soon moved, it seems that the realities of Toronto’s budget makes them unlikely suitors for Soria, Clippard or Darren O’Day, all of whom should earn multi-year deals worth at least $6 million per season. These deals weren’t common practice under Anthopoulos and I don’t expect that to change under new leadership, so naturally, it’s time to set our sights down a rung on the ladder.

We’ve compiled a list of available names with closer’s experience that should (or will) be available on more team-friendly one year deals. Struggles with injuries, performance, or both have landed these former closers back in this B-to-C level group. This isn’t the dream scenario when shopping on an open market, but the parameters of this group eliminates the necessity of buying high, opening up Toronto to some potential value. That being said, the options aren’t all pretty. By any means.

First up is a familiar name with over 100 career saves, but he’s also the likeliest of the group to require an option on top of his one-year contract…

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Jonathan Broxton, 31
2015: 60.1 IP, 4.62 ERA, 9.4 K/9

The mountainous Broxton had his $9 million option understandably declined by the St. Louis Cardinals, and now enters the free agent market as the prototypical case that the Blue Jays may need to target if they hope to add affordable closer’s experience. A power arm that hasn’t saved over 20 games since the 2012 season, but has a respectable history of performance beyond some recent inconsistencies.

Broxton made his name as a closer with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2008 through 2010, saving 72 games in three seasons. He then moved on to split his 2012 season between Kansas City and Cincinnati where he’d save 27 more, but hasn’t been used consistently in the role since that time.

From 2013 through 2015, Broxton’s success has been largely unpredictable. A full 2013 season with Cincinnati saw the right-hander post a 4.11 ERA with an uncharacteristically low K/9 of 7.3, well south of his career 10.3 average. It also represented the first time in Broxton’s career that his average fastball velocity (93.8 MPH) had dropped below 94 MPH.

He managed to bounce back the next season, though, with an improved fastball value despite that velocity dipping even further to 93.2 MPH. Broxton managed a 2.30 ERA between the Reds and Brewers, but again, that K/9 number was down at 7.5. In 2015 he saw his fastball rise back above 94 MPH and take his K/9 with it, but a 4.62 ERA doesn’t help his free agent case.

Here, the Blue Jays would be hoping to catch the pendulum swinging back the other way. Expect Broxton to earn $3.5-4.75 million million in year one of a deal, and ideally, any second contract year would be a team option. He fits the bill with closer’s experience, but Toronto should be able to find similar upside for a better value elsewhere.

Next: Next up, the bearded wonder who's closed some Cardinals games of his own...