Now that Masahiro Tanaka is safely tucked away and armed with a lucrative seven-year contract with the New York Yankees, the remaining free-agent starting pitching market is starting to take shape.
Shortly after the Tanaka signing was announced, the Milwaukee Brewers pounced on free-agent starter Matt Garza, inking him to a four-year, $50 million deal. That left a trio of pitchers in Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, all of whom are considered excellent pitchers who were waiting for Tanaka to finally sign so that their fates could be decided.
Now, Arroyo has a new home and a sweet deal, but the signing comes with plenty of question marks.
On Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they had come to terms with Arroyo on a two-year, $23 million contract. The deal also comes with a club option for a third year.
Arroyo will make $9.5 million in both 2014 and 2014 and will receive a $4.5 million buyout if the Diamondbacks opt not to retain him for a third year.
The deal itself falls in line with contracts already given out to starting pitchers this offseason. The San Francisco Giants paid Tim Hudson $23 for two years as well. Arroyo is an innings-eater, compiling at least 200 innings in eight of the past nine seasons, barely missing out on the only other year when he threw 199 innings in 2011. Over the past eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Arroyo compiled a respectable 4.05 ERA, not an easy feat considering the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark.
The issue with Arroyo’s contract isn’t so much with his performance—he’s been solid and consistent throughout his career. It’s more in the mixed messages sent out by the Diamondbacks.
The Arizona starting rotation before the beginning of the offseason consisted of Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy and Randall Delgado. Many experts see it as a solid but not spectacular rotation. The Diamondbacks must have been thinking the same, as back in December, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the Diamondbacks would be looking for an “elite starting pitcher” via the trade market.
With the prospects the Diamondbacks have in its possession, it certainly made sense. Armed with young pitching stars like Archie Bradley, Tyler Skaggs and Delgado, and shortstops Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius, the Diamondbacks certainly had the young talent on board necessary to acquire an elite starting pitcher like a David Price or Matt Samardzija. Skaggs was eventually moved in the trade that saw the Diamondbacks acquire slugger Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels.
Arroyo simply doesn’t qualify as an elite starting pitcher, and he doesn’t help in making the Diamondbacks’ rotation better, either.
Last year, Arizona starters posted a 46-59 record with a 4.13 ERA, good for just tenth in the National League. Arroyo’s 3.79 mark in 2013 is marginally better, but not worthy of elite status.
In addition, Delgado put up numbers eerily similar to Arroyo and is only 24 years old and under team control through the 2018 season. It appears that Delgado would be the odd man out in the rotation with the Arroyo signing.
In looking at peripheral statistics for both Delgado and Arroyo, it appears that the Diamondbacks just paid $23 million for an older version of Delgado.
How does that makes sense?
The deal only makes sense if Arizona was looking for insurance and depth. McCarthy’s injury history certainly warrants having an extra pitcher on board, but it’s essentially the same rotation that produced below average numbers in 2013 without Arroyo.
The Diamondbacks swung and missed with the signing of Arroyo. It’s not a knock on his performance, it’s a knock on Arizona’s overall offseason plan.