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  • Should Twins Offer Bronson Arroyo A Third Year?

    In the heat of the chase, it's easy to lose your head. Auctioneers know the trick is to just get people in the door. Once that happens, the investment, the competition, the excitement and above all the urgency, take care of the price all by themselves.

    And free agency is an auction. And Twins fans are feeling the urgency. And so, apparently, are the Twins.

    In his latest story on the Twins offseason, Mike Berardino reports that the Twins have showed a willingness to at least consider offering a 3-year contract to 36-year-old right-hander Bronson Arroyo. If you’re an American League snob like me, you might remember Arroyo from his tumultuous years with the Red Sox through 2005 (or possibly from Bill Simmons' description of the “Bronson Arroyo face”). He left for the National League, specifically Cincinnati, and has averaged 210 innings with a 4.05 ERA in the eight years since.

    It ain’t because of his stuff. For the last five years, he's averaged just 5.3 K/9, which (cheap shot alert) undoubtedly is what makes him irresistible to the Twins. He succeeds by keeping the ball on the ground and indeed his ERA has been closely linked to how many home runs he gives up each year. That bodes well for playing in Target Field, which is far friendlier to pitchers than the Reds’ Great American Ballpark. It doesn’t bode as well for a return to the American League.

    Arroyo and his agent are fishing for a 3-year deal, and the team that offers it is likely to win his services, provided you define “win” as guaranteeing 36+ million dollars to a 37-year-old pitch-to-contact starter. Is that wise?

    Of course not – but free agency rarely is. That’s the thing that can be so repulsive about signing a free agent: by definition the winning team is overpaying. When 29 teams won’t pay the price the winning team is willing to pay, the odds are stacked against them from the start. So let’s ask another question – is Arroyo likely to be productive through his 39year old season?

    Historically, no. First, there is the type: low strikeout pitchers far too often end up like Carlos Silva, Joe Mays or more recently, Scott Diamond. When their stuff dips just a bit, or their control slips a little, or the ground balls turn to fly balls, or the fly balls turn to home runs, things can go south in a hurry. Strikeouts are a safety net they don't have.

    Second, there is just the issue of health. Pitchers get hurt, especially when they've been used a lot. 36-year-olds get hurt too. And 36-year-old pitchers who have been used a lot? You know the answer to that, don’t you Joe Nathan?

    Finally, looking at Arroyo's closest comparable pitchers from baseball-reference.com, you find a lot of guys whose careers ended right about now. His top 5 are John Burkett, Todd Stottlemyre, Tim Belcher, Esteban Loaiza and John Lieber. None of them had success past his age.

    Twins fans know numbers six and seven on that list: Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson. Tap had a 4.49 ERA when he was 37 and then his career was over. Erickson pitched only 66 more innings over two years after he turned 37, and had a 6.35 ERA. But to be fair, all of these guys showed serious signs of decline well before this point, unlike Arroyo.

    Regardless, Arroyo is not a good bet to age well - but he hasn’t been a good bet to age well for five years running. And the Twins can certainly afford to overpay right now – but they might wish they had that money for a more reliable starter in 2016.

    Ultimately, I can’t believe Arroyo is so much of an outlier from historical precedence. I wouldn’t totally rule out the third year. Perhaps, like Berardino says of the Twins, I might give “indications they might be willing to go that far.” But I think we're getting caught up in the heat of the auction, and there are still lots of items on which to bid. I’d look long and hard at the other pitchers first, opting to pay that 2016 money up front to someone who is a little safer bet.
    This article was originally published in blog: Should Twins Offer Bronson Arroyo A Third Year? started by John Bonnes
    Comments 68 Comments
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'd rather put the money into Garza. Arroyo has no chance of being a difference maker.

      And I completely disagree with any theory that depends on Target Field somehow making any pitcher better than he actually is.
      Arroyo has no chance of not being a difference maker.
    1. goulik's Avatar
      goulik -
      The best thing about America is that Everyone is entitled to an opinion...
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I think a three year should result in an average annual value less than a 2 year contract just like the Vargas 4 year contract has a lower value then he could get on a 2 or 3 year deal.

      I would prefer the 2nd pitcher be a lefty. I am ok with Kazmir or even Campuano. I think these 2 pitchers (Arroyo and Campuano) give the rotation a chance to be average with the bullpen making the overall staff slightly better than average. now if we can get average to slightly better than average offense so we can be a winning team remains to be seen.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      And I completely disagree with any theory that depends on Target Field somehow making any pitcher better than he actually is.
      You make blanket statements like this, but also make statements about how the Twins should find guys who just haven't been successful in their current environment for some reason. Seems pretty contradictory.

      I don't understand why you wouldn't want the Twins to find guys who maximize the physical characteristics of their home playing environment. It's pretty easy to see how those players can represent greater value to the Twins than other teams.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      You make blanket statements like this, but also make statements about how the Twins should find guys who just haven't been successful in their current environment for some reason. Seems pretty contradictory.

      I don't understand why you wouldn't want the Twins to find guys who maximize the physical characteristics of their home playing environment. It's pretty easy to see how those players can represent greater value to the Twins than other teams.
      Target Field will make Arroyo's personal numbers look better. It really doesn't help much in the win column. While Arroyo will be saved of giving up a few home runs, Twin left handed batters like Arcia and Mauer will also lose a few home runs. The net will be insignificant. If Arroyo's numbers are better because of Target Field, that illusion may help if the Twins are able to flip him in a trade. It won't help in the win column.

      As always, USAFChief put it much more succinctly.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Target Field will make Arroyo's personal numbers look better. It really doesn't help much in the win column. While Arroyo will be saved of giving up a few home runs, Twin left handed batters like Arcia and Mauer will also lose a few home runs. The net will be insignificant. If Arroyo's numbers are better because of Target Field, that illusion may help if the Twins are able to flip him in a trade. It won't help in the win column.

      As always, USAFChief put it much more succinctly.
      That may be true on the macro level (I'm not convinced, I think that takes more analysis to determine), but in this context we're talking about Arroyo and the possible bang he brings for the bucks we shell out.

      It just makes sense to target players that might thrive better than their skill-level because it represents money better spent. No one is arguing it's going to magically transform him. Just that he might get better results in this ballpark because of his tendencies.

      It's just a smart thing to do. Utterly ignoring your home park tendencies is a good way to make bad player acquisitions if the fit isn't right.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Target Field will make Arroyo's personal numbers look better. It really doesn't help much in the win column. While Arroyo will be saved of giving up a few home runs, Twin left handed batters like Arcia and Mauer will also lose a few home runs. The net will be insignificant. If Arroyo's numbers are better because of Target Field, that illusion may help if the Twins are able to flip him in a trade. It won't help in the win column.

      As always, USAFChief put it much more succinctly.
      Concur.

      I'd add that you only play half your games at home, so even if there is some benefit, cut it in half.

      I also don't think TF is the pitchers ballpark some assumed it to be based on SSS.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      Another way to structure the contract is as a 2 year 24 million with the 3rd as an option with a 4 million buyout or 12 million salary. that would make the contract a 2/28 which is going to be the highest 2 year average he is gonna find or a 3 year 36 million which he is gonna have to be real bad and have internal replacements ready to go for us not to pick up the option.
      I had the same train of thought. $4M for nothing might seem like a bad business decision if it played out that way but it would be better than having $12M on the books if he just simply is no longer a compeitive SP. The same kind of deal might also work with Kazmir. You have to be a little skeptical of his resurgence but he might be a better bet given the age difference.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      You make blanket statements like this, but also make statements about how the Twins should find guys who just haven't been successful in their current environment for some reason. Seems pretty contradictory.

      I don't understand why you wouldn't want the Twins to find guys who maximize the physical characteristics of their home playing environment. It's pretty easy to see how those players can represent greater value to the Twins than other teams.
      And for the record, I don't think I've ever made the argument the Twins should pursue player X because of Target Field.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      I had the same train of thought. $4M for nothing might seem like a bad business decision if it played out that way but it would be better than having $12M on the books if he just simply is no longer a compeitive SP. The same kind of deal might also work with Kazmir. You have to be a little skeptical of his resurgence but he might be a better bet given the age difference.
      After seeing the Vargas contract you have to wonder if there is a new trend developing going forward with 2nd or third tier players getting longer contracts at a lower annual average or if the bloated option fee to make for a higher AAV should the option not get picked up. I agree that Kazmir would be a better short term gamble based on talent but Arroyo is still more likely to throw 200 innings next year which is what the Twins are going to value over the talent level. Especially since the Twins overworked their bullpen so much last year.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Target Field will make Arroyo's personal numbers look better. It really doesn't help much in the win column. While Arroyo will be saved of giving up a few home runs, Twin left handed batters like Arcia and Mauer will also lose a few home runs. The net will be insignificant. If Arroyo's numbers are better because of Target Field, that illusion may help if the Twins are able to flip him in a trade. It won't help in the win column.
      Arcia and Mauer are already Twins. The impact of TF on them is completely independent of trying to sign a free agent pitcher whose batted ball profile would benefit from the characteristics of TF. The decision is Arroyo vs another FA.

      As Levi pointed out, it's money better spent compared to signing a comparable pitcher with a different profile. No, the difference isn't going to win the World Series next year, but you certainly can't rule out a potential win difference.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'd add that you only play half your games at home, so even if there is some benefit, cut it in half.

      I also don't think TF is the pitchers ballpark some assumed it to be based on SSS.
      I'd argue the Twins need any benefit they can find... why would you ignore it?

      No one here is saying TF is a pitcher's ballpark. It's actually pretty neutral across most categories -- except HRs for LHB. Hence, a right-handed pitcher with flyball tendences such as Garza, Arroyo, or Hughes might be a little better fits.

      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      And for the record, I don't think I've ever made the argument the Twins should pursue player X because of Target Field.
      No, but there's a pretty solid case to be made that you should...
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post

      No one here is saying TF is a pitcher's ballpark. It's actually pretty neutral across most categories -- except HRs for LHB. Hence, a right-handed pitcher with flyball tendences such as Garza, Arroyo, or Hughes might be a little better ...
      They might. Or we might learn TF really doesn't suppress HRs for LH batters.

      I would rather wager on talented pitching suppressing runs.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      They might. Or we might learn TF really doesn't suppress HRs for LH batters.

      I would rather wager on talented pitching suppressing runs.
      I think we'd all rather just go and sign Robbie Cano or someone whose talent speaks for itself. But when you're dabbling in the middle of the pack, identifying tendencies in players that might better fit your park (like Willingham fitting better than Kubel), then it makes sense to make better use of your money in that way.

      You "only" play half your games at home, but that half can make a very big difference for many players. Home/Road splits are important to look at for that very reason.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      They might. Or we might learn TF really doesn't suppress HRs for LH batters.
      And we might also learn that the moon landing really was a farce after all these years. We can choose to be skeptical of everything for ever, but I'd think we could commonly accept most things.

      Four seasons of data says that it is true. If that's not enough, I'm really not sure what would satisfy that inner-skepticism of everything. 2020? 2040? Maybe global warming will shift the wind currents by then and you'll be right after all.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mnfireman View Post
      Alright sports fans, how about we look at things with a dose of reality.

      Gibson might make the team out of spring training, Meyer should be here around the all-star break, maybe sooner. Mays might get a September call up, but probably 2015, along with Darnell. The big guns, Stewart, Berrios & Gonsalves arrive 2016, and there are other names on the prospect list that will get shots during this time period.

      Okay now, the team has to get to these kids and maybe have some veteran leadership to help guide them along. 3 year contracts would be best, but then you are getting Arroyo, Capuano, etc... older type pitchers that (hopefully) eat innings.

      To get Garza, Nolasco, Santana, or Jiminez they would have to go 4 or 5 years, thereby postponing the arrival of prospects or putting the team in the position of having to try to trade them after 3 years, which sends a bad message to future free agents about signing here.

      If the team (and I mean Ryan) sticks to past protocol, we'll see one (or two) of Kazmir, Floyd, Pelfrey, Hughes, Capuano and maybe Narveson on a one or two year make good deal and Arroyo or whoever will take 2 or 3 years guaranteed.

      I personally would like to see Garza for 4 or 5, Arroyo for 3 and Kazmir or Pelfrey (preferably Kazmir because he is LH) for 1 or 2. This gives the team a veteran presence for a few years and allows a rehab project a chance to rebuild value while not holding back any prospects.
      I think you need to take a different dose of reality. I would be absolutely shocked if the Twins had TOO MANY good starters at any point in the future. Good pitching prospects close to the majors still have high bust rates. And a lot of those prospects that you named aren't even close to the majors.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      And we might also learn that the moon landing really was a farce after all these years. We can choose to be skeptical of everything for ever, but I'd think we could commonly accept most things.

      Four seasons of data says that it is true. If that's not enough, I'm really not sure what would satisfy that inner-skepticism of everything. 2020? 2040? Maybe global warming will shift the wind currents by then and you'll be right after all.
      Many were convinced TF suppressed HRs and offense for all hitters after a season or two as well.

      If you believe TF will make certain pitchers appear better than they are, fine. I don't think that will happen, but even if I grant you that as fact, it doesn't address the primary issue spelled out above...it won't result in more wins becaus opposing pitchers will get the same benefit when they pitch in TF.
    1. bphat1's Avatar
      bphat1 -
      People seem to be lumping a lot of pitchers into a couple of categories. Just because Vargas and Arroyo both soft toss does NOT mean they are the same pitcher. I'd MUCH rather have Arroyo at 3yrs for more money than Vargas for any amount of time at any amount of money. 3/$36M would be a steal for the Twins, consideriing it does not appear pitchers are lining up to come here. Now, this assumes we're still in on Nolasco, Kazmir (preferrably) and others. If we pick up Arroyo and then fill out the rest of the rotation with Diamond, Pelfrey et al I will be mighty disappointed. I wish those that are commenting negatively about Arroyo would actually watch him pitch. He would also be a great leader and teacher for our young pitcher(s) coming up...
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Would a third year of Arroyo at age 40-41 be better than some of the guys we have in the minors? Not the top prospect guys, but guys like Darnell, Baxendale, etc. I would rather see what those guys can do than have a pitcher over the age of 40. I'm not in favor of a third year.
    1. bphat1's Avatar
      bphat1 -
      If Arroyo can keep his ERA somewhere in the 4.25 neighborhood and have a .500 record in that 3rd year, I would take that. I don't see any reason he would decline that much at age 40 given how he pitches now.
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