Jonathan Broxton made a name for himself as someone who could overpower just about any hitter with his upper-90s fastball. He has been sidelined with right arm problems since May 3rd and when he returns there’s a good chance we’ll see a different kind of pitcher.
"The days of Jonathan Broxton throwing 99 and 100 [mph] might be over," agent B.B. Abbott told Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times last week. "But I think he can reinvent himself. He's still going to be 93-97.”
Broxton, who has struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings in his career, will have to get healthy before he transitions into a different style of pitching. The 27-year-old underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow yesterday to remove a bone spur and loose bodies
It’s been a while since Broxton seemed like himself. He started the 2010 season in fine form and had a 0.83 ERA until June 27th, when he made 48 pitches and allowed four runs against the Yankees. Regardless of the impact that outing had on Broxton's health (Abbott told Hernandez that he doesn't blame the Dodgers), there's no debating what happened next. Broxton posted a 7.58 ERA in 29 2/3 more innings that year with nearly as many walks (23) as strikeouts (25). Then, Broxton’s 2011 season ended after just 12 2/3 innings with a 5.68 ERA and, once again, nearly as many walks (9) as strikeouts (10).
Next up for Broxton: injury rehab (he’s expected to start a throwing program in six to eight weeks) and his first career appearance on the free agent market. Broxton’s stock has dropped significantly in the last year-plus, so teams won’t look at him as a sure-thing closer when he tests the free agent market this offseason. He’ll look for the opportunity to compete for a closing job, though there are no guarantees.
"I think Jonathan is prepared to sign a one-year deal and reestablish his value," Abbott told Hernandez.
Could it be with the Dodgers, the organization that drafted him in 2002 and has employed him ever since? Abbott says it’s possible and that his client would enjoy pitching under manager Don Mattingly again in 2012. However, Mattingly told Hernandez that he doesn’t know whether Broxton would be a fit since it’s been so long since he appeared in a game.
"I don't even know how to answer that, really" the manager said.
That’s probably how lots of front offices feel about Broxton, a formerly dominant reliever who’s still young and powerful enough to reinvent himself successfully. It’s hard to imagine a multiyear deal for the two-time All-Star, though that seemed all but inevitable 15 months ago. Instead, a one-year, incentive-based deal seems likely for Broxton, as long as he recovers from yesterday’s operation and assures teams that his health has improved.