We had posts on this site in May, June, and August, that referred to something Nick Cafardo had written about as “insanity.” If you wanted to surmise that I’m somewhat suspicious of his attempts to throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks (note: most likely shit), that should tell you everything you need to know. But in his latest piece for the Boston Globe, which comes my way via the indispensable MLB Trade Rumors, he links the Jays– in terms of fit, at least– with free agent right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who apparently won’t be back with Cincinnati Reds.

Arroyo, 36, said he wants a three-year deal and feels his career in Cincinnati is likely over. “I have no preference on where I want to pitch but I’ll certainly consider the team, their chances of winning, and all of that,” he said. “I feel I can pitch effectively at 37, 38, and 39 years old. I’ve never missed a start. Never been injured. I’m not a max-effort guy out there, so there’s no big-time wear and tear on me. I loved Cincinnati but I don’t think they’re in position to give me what I want.” Among the teams that could be bidding are the Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Cubs, Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, and Dodgers.

I’ll pause while you finish up rolling your eyes.

Good? OK.

A three-year deal to a Bronson Arroyo who’ll be 37 by the time the season begins seems pretty staggeringly unin-fucking-spiring as your big, splashy off-season move. It would sure bend the minds of the rubes convinced that bringing a “National League pitcher” to the AL– even one who had two of his best seasons pitching half the time in Fenway Park– is doomed to fail because of that alone, without even looking at who he is. But actually…

Arroyo really does actually make sense in some pretty compelling ways.

Believe me, I hate saying it. The only foul ball I’ve ever caught in my life came off the bat of Alex Rios during Arroyo’s absolute shitcanning at Rogers Centre in 2008– a game where he got just three outs, giving up ten earned runs on eleven hits, a walk, and three home runs– and since then I’ve sort of irrationally figured he sucked a whole lot more than he actually does. He certainly hasn’t left a good impression in this town– his career ERA at Rogers Centre is 6.75 over six starts– but if you take out that one inning, the ballpark hasn’t been as bad for him, in just a 29.2 inning sample, as you might think. Adjusted, his ERA drops to 3.94, which is better than the 4.19 mark he’s posted for his career.

Also better than his career 4.19 ERA? His ERA in four of the last five seasons, which, in order, have gone: 3.84, 3.88, 5.07, 3.74, 3.79.

Yes, he posted those numbers while pitching in the NL Central, facing lineups with pitchers in them, but still, not bad for a soft-tossing right-hander who has lost a couple miles per hour since he last successfully navigated the AL East waters.

Arroyo’s not just that, though. He’s durable as hell.

His first full season in the Majors was 2004, which he began as the fifth starter on a Red Sox team that would go on to win the World Series. In mid-April, an off-day and two rain outs gave the club an unwanted three-day break, and sent Arroyo briefly to the bullpen, which meant that he would make just 29 starts, despite appearing in 32 games in total. It was the last time he would make fewer than 32 starts in a season, and along with his 199-inning 2011, the only time in his career as a starter that he failed to reach the 200 inning plateau.

There are certainly parallels with the Jays’ best pitcher in 2013, Mark Buehrle, from obvious ones about durability right down to the various rates. For example, he walks slightly fewer batters than Buehrle, and in recent years has struck them out at about exactly the same rate. This year Buehrle’s LD/GB/FB percentages were 20.6%/45.3%/34.1%, while Arroyo’s were 20.3%/44.4%/35.3%. In 2013 Arroyo was a little more home run prone, with a 14.0% HR/FB rate (the second worst of his career), but that isn’t maybe quite as big a potential issue as it may seem: StatCorner’s three-year rolling data suggests that the Great American Ballpark was actually quite a bit more home-run-friendly than the Rogers Centre when it comes to both left- and right-handed hitters, and the data at FanGraphs (which doesn’t yet include 2013, or handedness) says the same– though not by quite as much– while at and Baseball-Reference, Cincinnati just edges Toronto in terms of home-run-friendliness.*

Still, homers will be an issue. And with Dickey and Buehrle here already, should they choose to bring in Arroyo, things could get very busy for the fans sitting behind the bullpens. But Alex Anthopoulos has acknowledged that he needs to manage risk a little better, and rolling with three pitchers who are as close to sure things as you get to put in six innings every time they’re given the ball certainly would help to that end. Of course, they’re not necessarily going to be the best innings, but every inning they throw is one that the likes of Sean Nolin, Aaron Laffey, Ricky Romero, Chad Jenkins, Ramon Ortiz, Chien-Ming Wang, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, or whoever is going to be 2014′s version of those guys, doesn’t have to.

Thing is, just because a guy has dependably logged innings the way he has for so long doesn’t mean that he’s going to in perpetuity. MLBTR profiled Arroyo’s case as a free agent, astutely noting that “it’s always scary to give decent money to a guy with an 87 mile per hour fastball, with the concern that he’ll lose another tick of velocity and start throwing batting practice.” They go on to explain that “Arroyo is a low-strikeout, pitch-to-contact hurler, and he’s had multiple years where he’s allowed around ten hits per nine innings.”

It’s a scary thought– one that maybe makes one want to reconsider the value of Ryan Goins, and make damn sure that the club can bring in a catcher who’ll be able to expertly control the running game, if this is a path they’d really consider going down. Or, y’know, maybe it just makes one reconsider the idea of Arroyo himself. But, I can’t lie, something intrigues me here, even if it’s probably just an over-correction in the direction of what Boston did this season by bringing in Ryan Dempster.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that Arroyo’s timeline corresponds nicely to fit the payroll flexibility the Jays are hoping to preserve for 2016 and beyond. Another point in the Jays’ favour is that he’s not necessarily going to be looking for a bridge deal in a spacious NL park in order to inflate the market for his next deal– if he can get the three years that he wants, there’s not much reason to be looking beyond this next contract.

Still… we’re talking about Bronson Arroyo. Ugh.


* Note: the original version of this paragraph had mixed up the data from Stat Corner.

Comments (78)

  1. this sounds like drew’s caterwauling about making 30 starts. i can’t believe that some combination of esmil rogers, todd redmond, kyle drabek and drew hutchison couldn’t give you what arroyo will give you, and at least there’s some upside there.
    do not want.

    • While I don’t want Arroyo, a combination of rogers, hutch, drabek and redmond will probably not get the same results as Arroyo is stretching it. Not to mention it would be extremely risky to hope for 4 pitchers to find their career groove. These guys haven’t even broken the 3 ERA mark yet.

  2. Here’s a question I have. I know Anthopoulos has talked about needing to be smarter about health risks going into 2014, but, isn’t the team better off going for risk/reward type guys than playing-it-safe, durable-types?

    I say this because one of the only things they seem guaranteed to have next year – barring trades – in the pitching department is depth.

    So my question is just – if they’re going to add a few starters this offseason, is a guy like Arroyo, a safe bet for a 1-2 WAR, the best way to go, over a guy like, say even Josh Johnson, who could easily be worthless, but you can also imagine a 3+ WAR season from. And of course, if Johnson busts, you can run to the somewhat interesting depth you have in Nolin, Stroman, Drabek, Hutchison, etc.

    • What if they brought in Bronson, and kept Johnson? How would a rotation of Dickey Buhrle Johnson Morrow and Bronson fare? Assuming they kept all the depth I think that would be reasonable.

  3. If we also get Johnson back, sure. Because then there is a good chance we need another durable arm if Morrow or Dickey or Johnson go down at all.

    • That may be the best way to go about it – and I heard Wilner say similar this weekend – to add one risky upside guy like a Johnson and one durable, safe starter.

      • Ya i agree with that. If we sign both Arroyo and Johnson then, in the worst base scenario if Johnson or Morrow falls apart we can put Rogers or Happ back in the starting rotation.

        The only concern is the cost. If were talking a 3 year deal for a durable pitcher like Arroyo, how much is that going to run us? And is it worth it or should we be spending that money on Jarrod Saltalamachia?

  4. Please god no.
    Also, when the biggest asset of a pitcher is his health an he’s turning 37 you’ve a definite problem. Is it really tenable to expect his bill of health to remain so spotless as he nears 40?

  5. Arroyo + Rogers centre = launching pad.
    Scary thought in my opinion

    • Which is why I wrote about park factors.

    • Great American was actually more hitter friendly (in terms of HR) than Rogers Centre this year. So the park change shouldn’t inflate his numbers much, if at all.

      He also posted pretty nice numbers in one of the toughest divisions in MLB this year (2nd toughest maybe?).

      I’ll admit, I thought it was an awful idea until I looked a bit deeper. Now I think it might be one of the best of a lot of pretty bad options for the Jays.

      • Shit! Was just going to say that it depends on which park factor data you look at, but then I went back to stat corner and… I must have clicked on the wrong tab when writing this, because Cincinnati is more HR friendly by them as well. Ugh. But thanks!

  6. Depends on the money. Having Bronson Arroyo at the back of your rotation gobbling up 200 innings in the mid-fours ERA wise is not the worst thing. The #1 thing the Jays were missing was reliable innings from starters. Not fantastic innings, but reliable ones. Your whole pitching rotation cannot be high risk / high upside.

  7. Yeah without looking at splits, I remember Bronson being a (relative) fly ball pitcher (am I right?). If this is true, then pass. We’ve got enough of those in this stadium.

    • As noted, same LD/GB/FB rates last year as Buehrle.

      • Didn’t we hand Arroyo the worst drubbing of his career a few years back at Rogers Centre? Like 7-8 runs in an inning? Maybe it’s the weed talking. But yeah, a big pay-out for a guy like Arroyo hitting the tail end of his career doesn’t seem like the wisest way to spend.

        • If you actually read the piece, then yeah, you’re all fucked up.

          • If Buerhle pitches the next two years like he did this year, and Arroyo can put up similar numbers to Buerhle, I don’t think a lot of people would complain. Arroyo is that perfect type of 3 or 4 starter isn’t he? Durable, not spectacular but good enough. And, if he does give up 3-4 runs a start, we’re supposed to have the type of lineup capable of overcoming that with Reyes, Bautista, EE, Lawrie, Lind and Rasmus in there – and even better if Melky improves after his surgery and JPA gets replaced/gets his shit together.

  8. Jorge de la rosa?

  9. Long article about Arroyo from Aug issue of SI here:

  10. Good call on the Goins point.

    Stellar defence for high GB rate guys like Buehrle and Arroyo (if signed) will pay dividends.

    What you didn’t mention id Dickey’s GB rate. Sure it was down this year at 40.3%, but was at 55.1%, 50.8%, and 46.1% from 2010 to 2012.

    Add Esmil Rogers who is a decent candidate for the 5th spot and his 47.2% GB rate.

    Do you guys remember 2012 Brandon Morrow? When he was nails and not trying to strike everyone out. He brought his BB rate into the low 40′s that year.

    Goins is starting to making more and more sense.

  11. Some thing I think the Jays should consider is taking a look at Tim Hudson. Similar to Arroyo in age Hudson has a very good GB% which one would assume to play well in the RC. Hudson may not be as reliable as Arroyo but looking over the past few years he’s been approaching the 200 inning mark consistently save for 2013 where the ankle injury ended his season.

    Similar problems to Arroyo arise when you consider bringing in an aging career NL pitcher from a generally friendly pitchers park like Turner Field. And who knows if he would even want to come here. But he would be a cheaper option who won’t be looking for the 3 year deal that Arroyo is.

    • How do you know he would be cheaper than Arroyo or looking for less years?

      • Older, hasn’t consistently pitched 200 innings, coming off an injury. Maybe your’re right in that he would be looking for similar money and term however I think Arroyo has more going for him when it comes to what teams would pay for in a free agent.

        With that said, who knows if Hudson will be as effective or effective at all coming off his injury but I think it’s something to look into.

    • Like hudson

    • Oakland’s big three? No? Never mind.

    • Not that it is relevant, but Hudson had a number of very good years with Oakland, so he is not a career NLer. Back then Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito made a fantastic group of starters.

  12. I like how Dusty Baker is in the pic, while durability and one of his pitches are mentioned in the same sentence.

    Doesn’t Arroyo get extra durability points for not breaking under Dusty’s watch?

    Staying healthy is a skill, right?

  13. Yes, more Mark Buehrles! Arroyo please.

  14. Sure, but three years sucks. 2 years would look a lot better to me.

  15. I’m not against it. But pitch-to-contact players need a plus defence, and even with Goins at 2nd base and Lawrie at 3rd I’m not sure we’ve got enough going on. Especially with the turf as it is right now. Unless they re-lay it, it’s running really really fast. We’d have to have magic all over the infield to combat that.

    • The defensive combination of Lawrie, Goins, Reyes, and EE is pretty magical.

    • ……..add an outfield of Rasmus LF, Gose CF, and Bautista RF and I”l take those chances defensively.

      • So our potential line up (with keeping goins and gose in the regular lineup) is;

        *Insert catcher

        Unfortunately thats a pretty iffy bottom 3 unless we get a decent upgrade at Catcher, defense be damned.

        • I’d rather switch Bautista to 1st. DH EE and get a younger faster outfielder. I think Bautista would kick like a mule but he’s getting older and 1st base would be better for his health. Also he’s a plus defender. Do that and Arroyo looks like a possibility in my opinion.

        • Why would we keep both? Lind/DeRosa at DH, Melky in LF.

      • Good Point, If we keep Goins, and have Gose work it out for one final year, and keep sierra as the 4th outfielder as he has no more options.

        Better Catcher then JPA

        That’s actually an excellent lineup as you’ve got at worst 2 black holes as DeRosa has proven to be a slightly above replacement level player when used sparingly. Better then vizquel anyways.

      • Remember that 25 mil budget increase request? Remember the 2 first round protected picks and bonus pool manipulation possibilities?

        If Goins and Gose are your 2B and CF all of a sudden acquiring Arroyo and McCann is a possibility.

        That would be a terrific off season.

  16. I could see AA going after ubaldo, wasn’t there a trade rumour about him a couple years back?

  17. If I remember right Cincy is a launching pad, possibly even more so than the Rogers Centre, so the fact he was able to have some success there would be a positive sign.

    Still, if I was adding a pitcher this winter, I don’t know if I’d put all my eggs in the Arroyo basket.

  18. So Arroyo is the floor? I can live with that. Perhaps AA makes a run for Tanaka and if it fails go for Arroyo as a fall back?

  19. AA should aim higher

    • Towards what?

      • Better pitchers

        • I don’t disagree with you, but while there are a few better options on the free agent market, they unfortunately don’t come very cheap.

          Garza will be the best available (and does not have draft pick compensation), but he’s got a ton of injury issues, though he is coming off a clean 2013.
          Santana will come with draft pick compensation and will cost a lot of money and years as well.
          Lincecum will also come with draft pick compensation and while his peripherals were decent, his results were not and I’m not sure you want to take such a risk on the guy when we already will take on a risky guy on Johnson.

          And Tanaka is (iin my opinion) the crown jewel but he’s not even guarenteed to post in the FA market this year, plus he will probably cost a crapton (posting fee+contract)

      • we need a better SP than Arroyo to have a good shot at winning the WS next year. Unless we have some serious bouncebacks from our current guys and someone comes out of nowhere and we have really good health (lol). If our top SP has a 4.15 ERA next year then we won’t be sniffing the playoffs.

        • You’re right, none of the guys on our roster could conceivably reach the towering heights acheived by playoff juggernaut starting pitchers Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and one tenth of a Brett Anderson.

          Truly, those without traditional Ace type staffs don’t win ballgames, by gum!

  20. 3 years has got to be a deal breaker for the Jays. I’d be very surprised if they signed him because of that, considering he’ll still want to decent money for those 3 years. I think they’d be all over it for 1 year or even 2 maybe, not 3? Can’t see it happening.

    • I wouldn’t bet against a Maicer-like situation (of course with more dollars involved), where a bunch of teams would offer him two, but it’s the team that steps up and offers three that’s going to land him. Could be wrong.

      • I’m sure that’s what ends up happening. If the Jays have missed on Tanaka and all their trade possibilities then fine, they have to do something but I sure hope they aren’t going after him as their primary target.

  21. zero upside, but I like the durability. He would make a nice #4/5 SP for us. I doubt AA wants to throw around big money for a #4/5 SP though….

  22. When does Usbaldo Jimenez renounce his player option?

    He’s a guy who can generally stay healthy to, but while having a higher ceiling he may have more volatility year to year. Also I think the Dominican factor might make him a slightly easier sign.

    Arroyo does have some nice consistency numbers, but for me I’d take higher upside.

  23. Above all, if the Jays were to sign Bronson Arroyo it would be well worth it just to see the following on the jumbo-tron every time he starts a game.

  24. I would rather bring in Erik Bedard than Bronson Arroyo.

    Is that insane?

    • Interesting Comp. Bedard has a better FIP the Arroyo, but a worse xFIP. Bedard strikes out more people but walks a lot more then Arroyo, hence the higher whip. He gives up the home run ball less but minute maid park is a lesser of a hitters park then rogers or Great American. He is unfortunately not the definition of durability. Has never pitched above 200 innings. He will be cheaper than arroyo though.

      I would say Arroyo the better sign even though he will be more expensive because of the durability and he walks people less, hence the home run ball will affect him less.

  25. Can we all please go back to talking about how AA is such a ninja, God, silent assassin, etc.?


    The Jays have several guys who can be a #4, #5 guy already within the org, no need to bring in this sack of shit.

  27. I really hope not. 46 homers to lead all of baseball three years ago, and 32 to lead the NL last year, with pitchers in the lineup. Think we have two pitchers who have been prone to homers, I honestly think Bronson would be a disaster in the Dome.

  28. Maybe if Arroyo comes here we can watch his band play at Sneaky Dee’s.

  29. I’m not sure loading up the rotation with older guys is less risky. The more older guys you slot in there, the more likely at least one of them conks out and then you’re back to Redmond et al. It might be best to spend the money on someone younger – the downside is the exact same and the upside is better.

  30. I’m a huge Bronson Arroyo fan. Think he’s terrific. Plus, him and Cawllby could rock some corn-rows together.

  31. Fuck yes, sign Arroyo. From the SI article:

    Arroyo himself often doesn’t know what he is going to throw until a split second before he throws it. “Maybe I’ve never thrown a fricking sidearm changeup, but you know what, I can’t get this m———– out, so I’m going to throw him a sidearm changeup and get him out,” he explains. “To be honest with you, there ain’t many people who have ever played this game who are going to keep up with me mentally, picking hitters apart with the s— that I have.” To Arroyo, a catcher’s sign is not a command but a suggestion.

  32. Sign him. Sign all of them. I want a 1 billion dollar payroll with 100 ace pitchers for depth.

  33. [...] Andrew Stoeten at DJF surprises me with his take on Bronson Arroyo and says something “intrigues” him about the possibility of Arroyo suiting up for the Jays next season. [...]

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