Bullpens. You can't leave them undermanned, especially around the holidays. To that end, three teams have stocked themselves with a right-hander.
• Jonathan Broxton is heading back to the Cincinnati Reds.
• Ryan Madson has signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
• The Philadelphia Phillies acquired Wilton Lopez from the Houston Astros.
Which club is getting the best pitcher?
He returns for three years and $21 million, which puts him into position to be Cincy's closer in 2013 if Aroldis Chapman transitions to the starting rotation. And, even if Chapman stays the ninth-inning man, there's always the eighth for Ol' Brox, who rebounded in 2012 after a couple of turbulent seasons of decline with the Dodgers. A two-time All-Star in '09 and '10 for L.A., Broxton pitched great (albeit in 22 1/3 innings) for the Reds after coming over from the Royals, where he was OK.
Broxton's deal might look awful rich (and interminable) if he reverts to his 2011 form, when his strikeout rate dropped and his walk rate jumped. He seemed to have a little better zip on his fastball and much better control after getting dealt to the Reds. Adjustments are a part of life, son. Also, he's allowed 27 home runs in 450 innings, which is a great number for home run friendly Great American Ball Park.
Verdict: A three-year contract for any reliever other than Mariano Rivera probably is too long. And now look at Mariano Rivera!
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He signed a one-year contract with the Angels. Yahoo! Sports' own Tim Brown reports the money: $3.5 million base, $2.5 million in bonuses, $1 million for a certain amount of games finished. Madson is coming off what must have been the most frustrating season of his career. He didn't pitch for the Reds because of an elbow injury that required Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, and he only signed with Cincy because a long-term deal for $44 million with the Phillies infamously fell through earlier in the offseason after someone got cold feet. (Are any of the contract incentives for his wife to say nice things about Angels fans? It all might depend on how much she likes rally monkeys.)
Assuming he's healthy eight months removed from surgery, Madson solidifies the back end of the Angels bullpen. He had 32 saves for the Phillies in 2011 and major-league front offices love saves. Ernesto Frieri had three of the Angels' 22 blown saves in 2012, but after 47 blown saves combined the past two seasons, they want to wipe the ninth-inning slate completely clean. So he'll probably pitch in the eighth. Madson's deal also works out great for his agent, Scott Boras, who can watch him from his seat literally behind home plate at Angel Stadium. He's got season tickets there and at the other California ballparks.
Verdict: A potential bargain, though the beginning of the season might be dicey. By July, he should look fantastic with his fastball and change-up mystifying the AL.
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"Who?" some of you might be asking. His track record is shorter, but Lopez has been terrific for the Astros, particularly with his control. At 29 years old, he has compiled a 3.14 ERA in 223 2/3 innings with only 39 walks allowed. A former Yankees prospect who hails from Nicaragua, he actually sat out all of 2004 and 2005 on the voluntary retired list. Crashburn Alley has more on him, including tweets from Jon Heyman of CBS regarding what the Phillies might give the Astros in return.
Verdict: His value depends on the prospect going to Houston, but Lopez might be the best bargain of them all. Not coming off an injury. Not saddled with expectations of saving games. Low profile. Seems like a coup for Ruben Amaro (if the price is right).