Monday, November 8, 2010

Bronson Arroyo to Get a New Deal?

Cornrows + Bronson Arroyo = Unintentional Comedy
Ken Rosenthal has some news on the Bronson Arroyo’s contract situation:

“Look for the Reds, who recently exercised right-hander Bronson Arroyo’s club option, to complete a two-year extension with the pitcher this week. Including the option, which is believed to be worth $13 million, the value of the deal over three years is expected to be between $36 million and $39 million.”
To be honest, I’m not terribly impressed by this move for the Reds.  Actually, I take that back.  I don’t dislike the Reds’ move to pick up Arroyo’s option for 2011.  With the pitching free agent market being pretty shallow this year (outside of Cliff Lee), bringing back Arroyo at $13M for next season looks like a pretty safe bet—especially for a serious playoff contender.  It’s not a great move, but since it’s only for one season, it’s acceptable.  Plus, it beats declining his option, losing him to another team, and having to sign a lesser player to take his spot in the rotation.
That said, I’m really not impressed with the idea of the Reds signing Arroyo to a two year extension that covers 2012 and 2013.  Looking at his last two seasons, does he really look like a pitcher that deserves what essentially amounts to a three year $39M extension?  I don’t think so. 
Arroyo is going into his age-34 season with all of his performance indicators trending in the wrong direction.  He’s outperformed his FIP and xFIP by nearly 20% in each of the last two seasons, which means his performance will likely to regress to the mean.  Between 2008 and 2010, his contact rate jumped nearly 4%, while his swinging strike rate declined by about 1.5%.  His K/9 rate dropped from being consistently around 7.0 K/9 to 5.0 K/9 without any corresponding drop in walk rate.  Furthermore, over the past two seasons, Arroyo posted BABIPs (.270 and .246) that were significantly below the expected statistical norms (.290-.310).* While he posted batted ball rates that will partially support his lower than average BABIP, I find it hard to believe that he’ll be able to maintain his better than average line drive rate.  Pitchers that pitch to contact, and have an average fastball velocity around 88 MPH typically give up a high rate of line drives.  Arroyo is no different.  I expect both his line drive rate and BABIP to regress to the mean in 2011.
* I crunched some numbers and found that Arroyo hadn’t benefited from a great deal of luck on balls in play.  Based on his batted ball statistics, I found that Arroyo gave up just as many hits (214) as he was expected to give up in 2009.  In 2010, he gave up only nine fewer hits than expected; this would’ve resulted in a BABIP of .258, which is still significantly below the statistical norm.
Lastly, Arroyo hasn’t exactly been a valuable commodity over the past couple of seasons.  The last time he provided at least $13M in value was in 2006--his age-29 season.  In fact, Arroyo has provided a combined $14.5M in value (3.4 WAR) over the past two seasons.  Considering his age and rate of regression, just picking up his 2011 option for $13M appears to be moderately risky.  Committing three years and $39M to a pitcher that’s a 1.5-2.0 WAR player right now seems borderline insane because his contract presupposes his performance will not continue to decline.  If he continues to decline at a rate of 0.5 WAR per season, the Reds could have a very expensive middle reliever on their hands come 2013.

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