2010 Reds / 2011 Reds

Should the Reds bring Bronson Arroyo back in 2011?

Everyone assumes, I think, that 2010 will be Bronson Arroyo’s last year with the Reds. This is the last year of his contract, and Arroyo is 33 years old, and the Reds have a nice group of young pitchers, so there has been a general consensus that Arroyo won’t be re-signed.

Lately, I’ve begun wondering whether the Reds should actually pursue a contract extension with Arroyo. I’m trying to divorce emotion from the analysis here, though I concede that’s a difficult proposition for me. The editors and many of you guys occasionally mock me for being a gooey, “Field of Dreams”-type baseball fan. Sometimes I have players I like, even if there is no discernible reason. Bronson Arroyo is one of those guys. A couple of weeks ago, it occured to me that I enjoy watching Arroyo play baseball more than anyone else on this team.

So, I like the stats and the sabretastics, but I admit I’m an emotional fan. I also feel bloated and unattractive since the baby. (Wait, what?) It’s just who I am. Sue me.

Unfortunately for Arroyo, as soon as I declare that I’m a fan of a particular player, that player is usually sent packing (see Dunn, Adam and Encarnacion, Edwin). Ignoring the fact that I’m condemning Arroyo to be dealt in some cosmic way, the question at hand is really whether the Reds should look into keeping Arroyo around for longer than this season. There is no clear-cut answer, but I’m leaning toward saying yes.

Let’s look at a few numbers. First of all, Arroyo is coming off a season in which he won fifteen games (his second straight 15-win season, for what that’s worth) with an ERA of 3.84. His ERA+ was 112. A good season, no matter how you slice it.

For his Reds career, Arroyo’s numbers actually look better than you’d expect. His ERA+ is 112, his ERA is 4.02, Though not brilliant, he’s been an above-average starter during that time.

What swings the analysis, in my opinion, is Arroyo’s durability. This guy is like the Law & Order* of starting pitchers; you can’t get him out of the lineup, no matter surrounds him in the rotation. He hasn’t pitched fewer than 200 innings in any season with the Reds, and he has led the league in starts twice (with 35 and 34; during the two seasons in which Arroyo didn’t lead the league, he still started 34 and 33 games). He makes every start and he chews up innings. There is value in an above-average pitcher who can throw that many innings.

*Yes, I know Law & Order was canceled. Imperfect analogy, you say?

I see no reason to think that Arroyo won’t be able to continue at this pace for the foreseeable future. Sure, he’s getting older, and his K/9 rate has dropped a bit, but this guy knows how to pitch better than anyone I’ve seen in a while (I know, I know, how do you quantify that? Work with me here, people). He’s averaging almost seven innings a start this year. He’s showing few signs of slowing down.

Isn’t there a pretty good chance that Arroyo will be an above-average starter — even if only slightly above-average — for the next three years? If so, wouldn’t you like to have that guy in the middle of your rotation, surrounded by a bunch of young guns?

The real question is what Arroyo would command on the open market. I have a sense that he’ll be able to make more as a free agent than the Reds could offer him. With Arroyo’s durability and production, someone will covet him, I imagine. If the Reds could get him for a reasonable price, should they consider it? Maybe, but I’m not sure the price will be reasonable enough to fit into the Reds’ budget plans.

I can absolutely see the argument for letting Arroyo walk, or for dealing him at the trade deadline.* Frankly, until recently, I really hadn’t considered the arguments for bringing him back because I thought it was a foregone conclusion that Arroyo would be pitching elsewhere next season. He has kinda been lumped in with Aaron Harang in the “old guys who are gone after this year” contingent.

What do you think the Reds should do? What do you think the Reds will do?

* Perhaps the Red Sox will trade Wily Mo Pena for Arroyo. That would be a good deal, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it?

36 thoughts on “Should the Reds bring Bronson Arroyo back in 2011?

  1. I am ok with keeping Arroyo as long as the reds are willing to move some of there younger pitchers or prospects for another impact player. I think they should try to get a top of the line prospect at either OF, SS or 3b. They might try moving Queto with Yonser. I don’t know, but with Volquez, Bailey, Chapman, Leake and Arroyo you would need to move someone. I also don’t think Alfonso is going to be any better than Gomes in LF in the next few years.

  2. What they should do: Keep Arroyo, let Harang go.
    What they will do: The opposite.

  3. I have been making this point since the end of last season. I’m ok with Harang going, but I’ll be disappointed if Arroyo doesn’t come back. The guy’s a pro, plain and simple, and everything I read points to him having a fantastic work ethic. Plus, let’s not forget that while it’s great to have so much good young pitching in the works, they need a solid veteran to look up to. If he (and Harang) go, who is the senior starter, Cueto? Um…why don’t we just bring back Arroyo and pretend we didn’t just have that discussion.

  4. They have an option for next year, right? I’m sure that option is overpaying Arroyo a but (depending on how he looks the rest of the year), but I’d be fine with him coming back (see previous parentheses). They could also try to negotiate a two or three year deal instead of the option.

    I have always really liked Arroyo, I really love how candid he is. But I’d been disappointed in him as a pitcher after the first year until that ridiculous stretch last season. His stuff isn’t very good but he knows how to get guys out. I come into every season expecting him to get hit and more often than not, he is able to perform.

  5. I think bringing Arroyo back is a good idea for a two big reasons:

    1. He’s reliable. Young pitching is great, but young pitching also gets hurt. I’m not worried at all abotu Arroyo going on the DL.

    2. He’s better than we give him credit for. He’s at least a bit above average, which means his profile is that of a 2-3 starter. On the theoretical team of next year he’d be behind Cueto, Leake (assuming he keeps this up) and then who? Harang is probably gone. Chapman looks good, but is still an unknown to some extent. Volquez will be back, but how good will he be. Then there’s Wood. All of a sudden, I like having Arroyo around.

  6. I honestly think one of Arroyo or Harang would have to be back next year and Arroyo is that guy. His option for next might be picked up if he continues to pitch like he has and the Reds stay in the race.

    There is a couple of things about Bronson that you have to understand:

    1.) You cannot go by his season ERA. Yes, it is a little high at times, that is because he will get blown up a couple times a year that bloats his ERA. Look at his ERA outside of those couple blowout games and it is very good.

    2.) 200 inning guys are hard to find. He takes the ball every time offered to him. He goes on 4 days rest so Cueto can go on 6 days. He is a gamer, and gives many quality starts.

    11 million for next year is a little steep when you look at it at first, but then look at other starters who come nowhere close to as many innings or quality starts that make the same or more. I think you HAVE to value that 200+ innings when you got guys like Homer/Cueto/Volquez who rack up the pitches (with fewer innings) and put stress on the bullpen.

    I wouldn’t be against another 3 year deal with him in the 24-27 mil range, hoping that he would love to stay out of the spotlight in Cincy (he has been quoted saying he likes that). That would put him in the same FA contract range as Joel Pinero and Jason Marquis from last year.

  7. In my opinion, the real question is, “Can they afford to let Arroyo walk?” Harang is done, he is a shadow of his former self. Chapman is a great prospect, but nothing guarantees he will be successful in the majors, after all, he still hasn’t pitched one game in the majors. Volquez is trying to come back from Tommy John. Success rate on Tommy John is pretty good, but his recovery is still not a guarantee. Arroyo has been consistent since coming to the Reds. You can guarantee Arroyo will have a few games a year in which he gives up a mass amount of runs, but other than that he is very sharp. My point is, the Reds have a lot of prospects, but until they put it together for a full season, the Reds should keep a hold of Arroyo. Volquez had a very good season a few years ago, but I think you have to hold your breath when a pitcher comes back from elbow surgery.

  8. I would love to see Arroyo return. He has value as a reliable starting pitcher and he has also pitched in the bullpen. I agree that his style of pitching makes it more likely he’ll be able to continue to do what he does for a few more years. And that’s worth a lot.

    Unfortunately, as Chad points out, that quality is going to be worth more to some other team than it will to the Reds. Realistically, Arroyo will not be at the top of the Reds rotation – Cueto, Leake, Volquez, Bailey, Chapman, Wood – all could be higher than Arroyo. I realize there is risk with most of those names, but odds are that a few will be OK.

    Bronson will likely find a big market team where he could be paid long-term to be a #3 starter – for a team like the Mets, Phillies or Dodgers. That team will offer him 3 years for $35 million, or something like that. The Reds should not match that kind of money with the budget we have, especially the number of years.

    Finally, the Reds have to look at their relative needs, and it’s unlikely that starting pitching will be a more important need than a bat. So if even in isolation, Arroyo is worth investing say $10 million next year, that might not be the best way to spend $10 million.

    If the Reds have an asset that is worth more to another team – a well-financed team – than it is to us, then we should consider trading.

    The same reason many of you want to trade Harang ahead of Arroyo is the exact reason we won’t be able to get as much for him.

    The question Bronson should be asked is whether he’d be willing to take less money to stay in Cincinnati.

  9. It’s all about resource allocation for the Reds (and all the other small market squirts). I really would love to have Arroyo back, BUT…

    I think that with the good young pitching, the other needs we have, and the risks of spending a lot of money on an older arm, Arroyo’s money would be better spent elsewhere.

  10. @Steve: I can’t see him getting that type of money. With his WAR totals and all his value should be around 8-11 mil, with his age and decline it might be more in the 7-10 range for the next three seasons. I would be shocked if he got more than 10 mil per from anybody.

    The safest way for the Reds to play it would be picking up his 11 mil option and see how the young guys do next year. They will owe him 2 mil if they don’t pick it up so they would only save 9 mil all told. If the young guys so well, then he is a trading chip, if a couple falter, they can always resign him.

  11. I thought we could pick up his option next year for 11 mil or so. I thought I heard that, or am I dreaming?

  12. @BJ Ruble: The most risky way they play it out is buy out both Harang and Arroyo, and go with all young guys:

    Leake
    Cueto
    Chapman
    Bailey
    Volquez/Wood/Maloney

  13. I would hope that they either pick up his option or work out a Rolen-type extension that reduces the hit on next year’s payroll in exchange for more years. I would say to decline the option if there were some impact offensive players to pursue on the free agent market but the offseason’s FA crop is pretty underwhelming.

  14. The bigger question is when are they going to start talking long term to Joey Votto, who is arb eligible after this year. Locking him up is number 1 priority!

    • Really after looking at the payroll situation, with Phillips huge pay raise, Votto/Cueto pay raises, other arb eligible players Volquez/Owings ; in order to keep Arroyo they will certainly need to raise payroll from what it is today.

      Payroll

    • The bigger question is when are they going to start talking long term to Joey Votto, who is arb eligible after this year.Locking him up is number 1 priority!

      Agree. I wonder about this frequently. Time to make Votto the explicit cornerstone of the team. And captain.

  15. I think the most important and oft overlooked quality of Arroyo, is his STYLE. No, not his finger-picking, boat-lounging, style, but rather his style of pitching, which contrasts nicely with young flame-throwers like Bailey, Cueto, Volquez, and Chapman. The same can be said of Leake. I think Arroyo fits perfectly in the rotation of the future, but Harang, not so much.

    Arroyo’s style is so contrasting to Harang, because he uses such a myriad of arm-slots, pithces, and speeds. A player just can not sit on a Arroyo pitch; the hitter literally has to guess what’s coming. The same can not be said of Harang, and unfortunately, I think Harang suffers from being in the Reds current incarnation of a rotation.

    Bailey and Cueto are similar to Harang, yet Harang throws 3-5 mph slower. A hitter must salivate at Harang’s low-90s fastball after facing mid-to-high 90s heat from the young guns. Conversely, Harang only throws 2-3 different pitches, all from the same arm-slot. Again, this must look a lot easier to hit than Arroyo’s or Leake’s confounding repertoire. Harang is a good middle of the rotation starter, but he sure would do a lot better with different styles surrounding him. He’d be excellent for the Mets, or another rotation with more lefties and a big park.

  16. Looking at it purely from a payroll perspective, from the mlbtraderumors’ link

    Holding payroll steady and allowing all free agents to leave, the Reds should have over $10MM to work with. They’ll have a lot of holes to fill.

    Looking at their math, $10M to work with already accounts for the buyouts and all the arbitration raises to arbitration eligible players. The free agents on their list that would need replaced include:

    Arroyo
    Harang
    Cabrera
    Hernandez
    Gomes
    Rhodes
    Lincoln
    Cairo

    …so if they retained Arroyo, they’d have $1M left to fill out the squad (if payroll remains the same.)

  17. @Greg Dafler: We won’t see any FA action from the Reds this year at all, with the exception of resigning Rhodes, or someone else to fill that role. Everyone else can be replaced from guys at AAA. (the back-up C is iffy)

    If they let Arroyo go, then we might see a little more action, but I highly doubt it.

  18. FA action? Probably not, especially with the pending free agent lists out there. Trades? You’ve always got to keep that possibility open.

  19. The Reds need to strap in and go after Jayson Werth from the Phillies to play LF. His bat, in between Votto and Bruce, would be awesome. And he’s solid in the field. That’s going to cost some serious cash, but our pitching staff should be pretty inexpensive in the near future (we lose Cordero’s contract as well after 2011).

    I’d also consider trading Brandon Phillips to get this done. BP is a great fielder and OK hitter, but he is being paid like a great hitter, which he isn’t. No way he is $9 better than whoever we bring up from AAA.

  20. It boils down to money. How much are Arroyo’s 15+ wins worth and can the Reds get those wins somewhere else for a better price?

  21. I like picking up Arroyo’s option for many, many reasons.

    1.) He’s a veteran starter, you’re only one next year.
    2.) Like it has been said many times, he’s consistently been an innings eater every year.
    3.) He’s a “slop”/sinkerball pitcher which gives you a break from the fastball/slider/changeup pitchers in Volquez, Cueto, Chapman, and Bailey.
    4.) He gives you the option of pitching on 4 days rest when you need that to switch up the rotation.
    5.) Leake is still unproven, Cueto is always a game or two from blowing up, Bailey is inconsistent, Chapman is still raw, and Volquez may not come back from injury the same pitcher. Arroyo is stability.
    6.) If there is a 1 in 6 chance he would land on an NL Central team, I don’t want to go against him. Especially if that is with St. Louis.
    7.) Finally, and most importantly, he’s Chad’s favorite player. You’ve got to keep the judge happy.

  22. It also boils down to attendance. If the Reds remain in contention through the end of the season, will enough people come through the gates to give the org more cash, and more incentive to spend more?

  23. Most of the important points have already been mentioned: Arroyo would provide veteran leadership over a relatively young staff next season; and his stress-free pitching style almost guaratees he’ll continue to eat innings for at least a couple years.
    If you wanted someone to compare him to, how about Don Sutton? Sutton pitched almost the same way—-not overpowering but crafty and pretty much injury free. A lot of statheads knock Sutton by saying if he weren’t on those 70s Dodger teams, he never would have won 300 games or gotten into the Hall.
    The cons of resigning Arroyo are financial. They have to sign Votto long-term. That is the priority. Wether Jocketty is smart enough to do it is a big question. Maybe he’ll just figure Alonso will be more affordable.
    And I still think the Reds will be much better off if they get rid of Volquez sooner rather than later. If he’s arbitration eligible, that’s more money they won’t have to sign Votto and Arroyo next year and Bruce and Bailey the next.
    The one major need I see for the Reds in the next couple of years is a catcher. And there just aren’t very many exceptionally good catchers around anymore

  24. @Greg Dafler: It’s been noted before, and I’m surprised that MLBtraderumors hasn’t changed it yet, but their numbers are totally incorrect. Take a look at the spreadsheet here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tj1FG9GPVGFzrJykhM94ogw&output=html

    The Reds have more like $20-$25 mil. to work with this offseason, even after arbitration raises. It’s a great time to work a couple of contracts. One for Votto and another for Arroyo would work just fine, and still likely allow some flexability to make a few minor signings next season.

    The franchise is looking really ‘flush’ with respect to payroll over the next few seasons (Cordero and Harang’s contract off the books). This, to go along with their great debt ratio, makes contract signings a lot easier to swallow right now. I don’t think it is coincidence that the Reds have started to spend money on latin american FAs.

  25. 20 mill+ would sell me on keeping Arroyo. We pay Rolen for his leadership, work ethic, etc – why not make Arroyo a competitive offer for all the obvious reasons coupled with his work ethic example?

    I don’t know that the money could be spent better elsewhere – although we may need a closer since Massett doesn’t look like an heir apparent.

  26. @TC: Nice summary, TC, of why we should extend Bronson’s option.

    And I agree with BJ Ruble: “The safest way for the Reds to play it would be picking up his 11 mil option and see how the young guys do next year.” Safest and smartest.

  27. We need to invest in an all-star caliber player if we want to break through to the next level.

    If we keep relying on players like Heisey, Nix, Stubbs, Dickerson, Cabrera/Janish etc. we will always be mediocre. None of those players would start for the Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals or the contending teams of the AL.

    I like those players, I enjoy watching those players. But if the Reds are serious about taking the team to the next level we need some OF that are BETTER than what other teams have.

    Signing a stud like Jayson Werth, or others like him, is what we need to do to take full advantage of our cheap, young starting pitching.

  28. We know what Arroyo delivers in return for his salary. We do not yet know what all the kid pitchers will deliver. It’s not even June yet. If Leake, Bailey and Cueto have won 15 games each by September, if Chapman comes up in July and goes 10-1 the rest of the way, well, then, there’s less reason to keep Bronson. Still, though, it’s a big gamble.

    In the end, all trades should be considered based on what you get in return. Arroyo wins 15 games and pitches more than 200 innings every year. What are the chances that trading him will return a player who will make a greater contribution?

  29. I’m going to make an outlandish prediction:

    Given that Arroyo could theoretically probably pitch well for 10 more years, if the Reds resign him and he sticks with the team for the rest of his career, he’ll be the franchise’s all team leader in wins.

  30. @Steve: In BA’s blog today he said he would definitely go back to Boston if he had the opportunity. He didn’t say he was LOOKING to go to Boston, but that he would. I expect BA to get a good offer from a big-time spending club for all the reasons we’ve already talked about. Would love to see him come back at a reasonable salary.

  31. Ya know, the more I think about it, the more I think it is stupid to trade your most consistent winning starting pitcher just because you’ve got a few kids with potential. Would Sparky’s Reds have traded Bench just because they acquired Morgan?

    If the Reds can’t find a place for Arroyo in the 2011 rotation, they’d better be running with five 20-game winners. Pay the man!

    (Winning means a bigger payroll. It’s a cause and effect relationship.)

  32. Exactly, he’s a plug-and-play type of player, no muss, no fuss. You don’t go and get 200-inning guys just anywhere. Open the wallet, give him at least a one-year deal, and go with it!

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