Free Agent: Bronson Arroyo


Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Today we kick off the next series in the BRM end of the year posts with a look at Bronson Arroyo‘s looming free agency.

Arroyo is the longest tenured Red having come over in the Wily Mo Pena trade with the Red Sox back in 2006. Since coming to Cincinnati, Arroyo has thrown 200+ innings in all but one season, falling 1 inning short in 2011. Arroyo quickly endeared himself to Reds fans being named an All-Star and garnering a point in the MVP voting in his first season in Cincinnati. Following a 17-10 year in 2010, Arroyo won a Gold Glove and received a vote for the Cy Young Award. Over eight years with the Reds, Arroyo has never started less than 32 games in a season (starting more than any other NL pitcher during that period) and has amassed 105 wins (more than any other NL pitcher in that stretch) with a 4.05 ERA. But is his time in Cincinnati now over as he enters free agency?

Arroyo made $16,445,535 in the final year of his contract last season. In his 2013 campaign, Arroyo went 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA. It was the fourth time in five seasons in which Arroyo posted a sub-4.00 ERA.

Arroyo’s durability is something to be desired, never missing a start in his 14 year career. In 2006, Arroyo threw a career-high 240 innings for the Reds. A pitcher that can guarantee  200+ innings is something to covet on the open market and he will be one of only four free agent pitchers that threw over 200 innings last season.

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That being said, Arroyo isn’t the prototypical starter in today’s game. He isn’t a max effort guy on the mound, averaging 87 miles per hour on his fastball in his 32 starts last year. He is prone to giving up hits (8.9 per nine innings) with his low swinging-strike rate and attempts to counterbalance that with his low walk totals (averaging less than 2 walks per nine innings the last two seasons).

Arroyo is said to be seeking a multi-year deal this off-season. However, he will enter the 2014 season at age 37, which could turn teams off to the idea of a multi-year deal. His desire for a multi-year deal does make sense for him personally though as it will be his last chance to earn a multi-year contract.

It seems hard to believe that the Reds would bring back Arroyo on a multi-year deal with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani all on the roster as viable rotation options. Not to mention the possibility of Aroldis Chapman moving to the rotation as well. The loss of Arroyo, however, would leave the Reds very thin on starting pitching depth if one of the aforementioned were to get injured. The team would also be losing a veteran leader and presence in the clubhouse and for all of the pitchers.

Still, it seems like a risk for the Reds to offer a qualifying offer to Arroyo who stated,

"The sense I have, I don’t think they’ll make me a [qualifying] offer. They would have to offer me $13 million-$14 million for me to stay anyway."

That being said, gaining an extra draft pick would benefit the Reds greatly. If the team and Arroyo were able to agree on a situation where Arroyo would decline the qualifying offer to help the Reds that would be the best plan of action. However, with Arroyo already at a disadvantage as a 36-year-old soft-tosser looking for a multi-year deal, I don’t see that happening either as losing a draft pick may turn potentially interested teams off the idea of signing him. Therefore, the Reds may be best suited to skip the qualifying offer altogether.

Although there is still pleAs of now, Arroyo and the Reds have not spoken according to the pitcher,

"I haven’t had one conversation with them. They could be taking care of other things or other issues. The sense I get is by not having any conversation with me, is they’re going in a different direction. It’s a question of whether they want a $28 million rotation or a $42 million rotation."

As nice as it would be to possibly have Arroyo back in the rotation with Cingrani or Leake coming out of the pen and serving as a viable backup option if there were an injury, the Reds have plenty of other needs to address that that possible money could go towards.

If Arroyo doesn’t return to the Reds, he’ll most likely sign a two-year deal for a little less than his last contract (possibly $25 million range). Before the Giants re-signed Tim Lincecum there were rumors Arroyo could be headed to the Bay. Now, that possibility seems less likely although it is still a possibility will Barry Zito coming off the books in free agency as well. In 2011, Arroyo mentioned he would be interested in returning to Red Sox Nation or pitching for Joe Maddon and the Rays. Neither of those teams seem too likely, though he could possibly return to the AL East with the Orioles (pure speculation). Of course, he has also stated multiple times his desire to end his career in Cincinnati.

The free agent market will open up following the conclusion of the World Series. Then it will be up to the Reds and Arroyo to decide if both sides can make his desire a reality.