• 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. JP3700's Avatar
      JP3700 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      Agree -- 100%!

      23 of his 32 HRs in 2013 were vs LH batters. http://www.fangraphs.com/statsplits....=P&season=2013

      To account for home and away, we can look at the park factors for HRs as a LH hitter on the Twins vs the Reds: 89 vs 110. Reds were 5th highest, Twins were 3rd lowest. Even RH shows a difference: 97 vs 114. http://www.fangraphs.com/guts.aspx?t...=2013&teamid=0

      You could reasonably assume Arroyo would have given up 5-7 fewer HRs as a Twin. I'm sure the Twins have noticed this. It also makes me like the idea of Phil Hughes for the same reason -- right-handed flyball pitchers.

      They seem to have been targeting groundball pitchers even as recently as last offseason, but their playing environments say they should tweak that focus and maybe they've noticed that.
      Great post. It's not just the home runs with Arroyo though. He has always had a huge platoon split.

      2013
      Lefties OPS: .856
      Righties OPS: : .602

      Career
      Lefties OPS: .831
      Righties OPS: .665

      So although Target Field may keep a few in the park, LH batters will still do a ton of damage on Arroyo. When you look in the division, as of now, the Royals have a few LH bats and the Indians are the platoon kings. Tigers and White Sox are RH heavy.

      I love the idea of the vesting option on the third year. If I have to give three years guaranteed, I'd much rather sign Feldman.
    1. LewFordLives's Avatar
      LewFordLives -
      Tim Hudson got 2-years $23 million from the Giants. Why should the Twins give more to Arroyo? If they're going to focus on the 2nd tier pitchers, I'd rather they pursued Kazmir, Feldman, or Hughes.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      I've seen that people say Target Field is hard on LHB. Can someone point me to data over time, and not just yearly park factors? Target Field has fluctuated each year in terms of overall park factors, and in the last two years they have been above 1.0 for runs scored and even for HR in 2012.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Im not sure but i dont think u can use performance stats like era in contracts. They get around it with games played ip and bonuses for silver slugger cy young etc. i dont think u see any bonuses or vesting options based on era or homers etc. just games ip ab Im not a huge fan of arroyo but could handle him on a two year with vesting option
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Arroyo would make a good addition to the rotation in 2014, but hopefully by 2015 or 2016 we will have Meyer and May up, making Arroyo unneeded. A two year contract with a team option year for year 3 – or a combination player option and team option - or a vesting option for year 3 would be good.

      I thought TR said he did not want longer contracts for someone on "the wrong side of 30"? Arroyo would certainly be on the wrong side.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      Agree -- 100%!

      23 of his 32 HRs in 2013 were vs LH batters. http://www.fangraphs.com/statsplits....=P&season=2013

      To account for home and away, we can look at the park factors for HRs as a LH hitter on the Twins vs the Reds: 89 vs 110. Reds were 5th highest, Twins were 3rd lowest. Even RH shows a difference: 97 vs 114. http://www.fangraphs.com/guts.aspx?t...=2013&teamid=0

      You could reasonably assume Arroyo would have given up 5-7 fewer HRs as a Twin. I'm sure the Twins have noticed this. It also makes me like the idea of Phil Hughes for the same reason -- right-handed flyball pitchers.

      They seem to have been targeting groundball pitchers even as recently as last offseason, but their playing environments say they should tweak that focus and maybe they've noticed that.
      Great Research!

      Thanks for doing that. Might be why the Twins seem to be so much higher on him than it 'seems' on other pitchers.

      Because, that's an unreasonablely high amount vs LH...

      Even that Batting average...

      LH hit .292 off of him.
      RH hit .215 off of him.

      Versus RH...if his total splits...he'd be a top 5 pitcher in the game annually.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      I've seen that people say Target Field is hard on LHB. Can someone point me to data over time, and not just yearly park factors? Target Field has fluctuated each year in terms of overall park factors, and in the last two years they have been above 1.0 for runs scored and even for HR in 2012.
      TF has indeed turned out to be pretty neutral overall despite the early concerns. LHB HR factor has been relatively consistent. BP doesn't give you 2013 data without an account, but here's 2010-2012:

      http://www.baseballprospectus.com/so...hp?cid=1384402
      YEAR TEAM SIDE Home PA Away PA Home HR Away HR FB Factor GB Factor LD Factor PU Factor 1b Factor 2b Factor 3b Factor HR Factor Runs Factor
      2012 MIN RHB 3220 3133 106 90 103 102 95 90 101 99 127 107 105
      2012 MIN LHB 3023 3047 61 72 101 100 97 104 101 99 155 93 98
      2011 MIN RHB 3265 3213 83 78 107 101 93 100 105 98 103 102 100
      2011 MIN LHB 2868 2884 43 60 106 101 89 94 100 94 94 86 97
      2010 MIN RHB 3143 3282 63 98 110 104 87 99 101 106 99 84 96
      2010 MIN LHB 2987 2951 53 83 104 101 91 98 103 105 116 82 98
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      Agree -- 100%!

      23 of his 32 HRs in 2013 were vs LH batters. http://www.fangraphs.com/statsplits....=P&season=2013

      To account for home and away, we can look at the park factors for HRs as a LH hitter on the Twins vs the Reds: 89 vs 110. Reds were 5th highest, Twins were 3rd lowest. Even RH shows a difference: 97 vs 114. http://www.fangraphs.com/guts.aspx?t...=2013&teamid=0

      You could reasonably assume Arroyo would have given up 5-7 fewer HRs as a Twin. I'm sure the Twins have noticed this. It also makes me like the idea of Phil Hughes for the same reason -- right-handed flyball pitchers.

      They seem to have been targeting groundball pitchers even as recently as last offseason, but their playing environments say they should tweak that focus and maybe they've noticed that.
      Check his HR/FB against LHB in that link. 18.9. This is too high and will regress towards 10-11% which would take care of 10 or so of those 23 HRs. So he would likely give fewer HRs that the 5-7 less you are thinking... But I agree, TF kills lefty HRs, unless they are Thome or Arseeya
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      Arroyo is an annual leader among Gopher-ball Pitchers (HR allowed)...

      I guess part of that is pitching 200 innings each year.

      But who else has pitched 200 innings annually...how are his HR allowed numbers?

      Home Runs
      2006 NL 31 (2nd)
      2007 NL 28 (8th)
      2008 NL 29 (6th)
      2009 NL 31 (2nd)
      2010 NL 29 (3rd)
      2011 NL 46 (1st)
      2012 NL 26 (5th)
      2013 NL 32 (1st)


      I'd personally take a pass on Arroyo, unless it's $6-8M annually, max 2 years, unless there's an option, like I mentioned before. Has to pitch 200+ innings, ERA under 4, for the 3rd year.
      FYI
      Ballpark Factors for HR
      Great American Ball Park - Cincinnatti - 1.338
      Target Field - 0.802

      This might have something to do with it. I would think Arroyo would like the change.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      So when considering expensive upper-tier pitchers who are 30, we're told that Terry Ryan would be, in his own words, "very cautious". But when shopping for an affordable back of the rotation starters, a three year deal for a 37 year old with weak peripherals is Kool and the Gang?

      Lately Ryan has seemed bent on eroding his credibility, and in that sense a three year deal for Arroyo is a perfect fit.
    1. mnfireman's Avatar
      mnfireman -
      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.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Arroyo had a FIP of 4.49 leading to a WAR of 0.8. While it helps to change parks, he would have to face a DH in the AL.

      This is a pitcher who over the last 3 seasons had a cumulative WAR of 1.7. Correia has the same total in fewer innings. It is not reasonable to expect he will do better over the next three at his age.

      Steamer does project him for 1.7 next year (Correia 1.6).

      Which pitcher will have more WAR over the next three years? Worley or Arroyo? I would bet on Worley though it will likely be Arroyo in the first of the three years. The Twins could DFA Worley while paying Arroyo millions.

      Note: WAR numbers are from fangraphs.
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      Hudson would be a fair comparison but he is going to a NL team with a pitchers park on the west coast who is a WS contender. If the Twins had wanted Hudson they would have had to go 3 years.

      I think a 3/36 with a 5 mill buyout on the last is probably what it would take to get him. Whetehr you think that is an overpay or not I can't see it being less to get them to come to MN.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      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.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Arroyo had a FIP of 4.49 leading to a WAR of 0.8. While it helps to change parks, he would have to face a DH in the AL.

      This is a pitcher who over the last 3 seasons had a cumulative WAR of 1.7. Correia has the same total in fewer innings. It is not reasonable to expect he will do better over the next three at his age.
      You're capitalizing on the one outlier and worst season of his career in 2011 by using 3 seasons. You'll say that's relevant because they are talking about a 3 year contract, but it's still an arbitrary cutoff that captures his one and only negative WAR season.

      In a different light, I could tell you he's averaged 2.2 WAR every season for the last decade.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      I used baseball reference play index to find all 36 year old starters who started at least 28 games.

      I found 28 pitchers. Those 28 pitchers averaged 3.2 WAR with 21 pitchers over 2. (I used BR WAR as it is tied to their play index).

      G IP W L K BB >2 WAR
      Age 36 32 204 14 10 147 64 21
      Age 37 31 176 12 9 125 57 12
      Age 38 24 137 9 7 97 43 11
      Age 39 18 103 7 6 69 32 7

      Even in the first season of the contract there is a significant drop in pitchers who baseball reference values at 2+ WAR. By age 39, only 25% of the pitchers are at that level.

      There were 8 pitchers who aged well and account for most of the age 38 and 39 stats. Those pitchers were Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and David Wells.

      If the Twins put Bronson Arroyo in that class, they should absolutely give him a multiyear contract. If not, anything beyond a one year deal would be a foolish investment to appease the fans in hopes of generating interest and ticket sales.

      Edit: Baseball reference has a similar pitchers through age 36 on Arroyo's page. While none of the 8 mentioned above landed on his list, several were on the original list of 28. John Burkett(#1) and Tim Belcher(#3) should be of particular interest to any team considering signing Bronson. They both signed 2 year deals following a solid 36 year old season. Burkett had two seasons worthy of a #5 starter and retired not making it to 39. Belcher was awful in his 33 starts for Anaheim posting ERAs above 6 at age 37 and 38 before retiring.
    1. TopGunn#22's Avatar
      TopGunn#22 -
      Not high on Arroyo, never really have been. I'd rather see the Twins target Kazmir and Hughes. (My pipe dream is Tanaka , but...it will never happen). I've got no problem with 3 year contracts for FA SP's. I just don't want to mess with 36-37 year olds that will be 40 by the end of their contract. We need S-Pitching...NOW. We will still need it 2-3 years from now when the young guns are either already up with the big club or soon to arrive. I realize that Target Field would play far more favorably to a pitcher like Arroyo than Cincy's. Still, I'd much rather spend my hard earned money on younger, American League pitchers like Kazmir and Hughes. Would Arroyo be better than what we currently have? Heck yes! But how low does Terry Ryan want to set the bar???
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      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.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Age 37 and 38 might not be a problem. The only way the third year should be added if it were of less value and had incentives, or if the total contract of three years gets you a bit above those contracts that are for two years.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      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.
      No field can make a pitcher what they are not unless the fence is so far out so as to hinder the ability to hit a HR. Then you would need faster outfielders than Willingham and some of the others being played out there recently.
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