The Cincinnati Reds are doing more than just picking up Bronson Arroyo's option for 2011. Word is that they are trying to lock him up to a two or three year deal at around $13 million per year. That's a pretty heady price tag for a really durable, league average pitcher. Arroyo (on paper) had his best year in the majors with 17 wins and a sub-4 ERA. But caution abounds here and in this writer's mind, there is a big yellow flag being waved.
There is value in a pitcher that will give you a chance to win 33 starts a year. Arroyo has not failed to pitch at least 30+ starts and 200+ innings for four straight years. He never seems to get hurt, or if he gets hurt, he never seems to say anything. Since he isn't a power pitcher anyway, he's not going to blow you away. His 5.0 K/9 rate isn't what you would call a buzz kill as a batter. But Fangraphs pegged his value in 2010 at $7 million. Baseball-reference.com gave him a slightly higher value. That means that even at his option price of $11.5 million, Arroyo is overpaid. Bump that up to $13 million and he his nearly doubly overpaid.
Arroyo's year was commendable, but it was a bit of a fluke too. His BABIP was .241 for the season which is a combination of great luck and very good fielding behind him. Though his ERA was 3.88, his xFIP was 4.60 which, according to the formula, is where his ERA should have been. To give you an idea what the Fan is talking about, Arroyo's value, as calculated by Fangraphs, puts him in the company of A. J. Burnett, Kevin Millwood, Chris Narveson and Chris Volstad.
On top of all this, Arroyo is going to be 34 in 2011. Can he keep on being effective at that age? Certainly. Are the odds good that he will be as affective as his reasonably effective 2010 for the duration of a three year deal? No. The Fan was surprised when the Reds picked up his option for the 2011. But that is fine as long as you are only gambling with house money for a year. Extend that wager for three years, and it seems a bit crazy.