At various points throughout the offseason, the O's have been linked, in one way or another, to several free agent starters: Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, and Bartolo Colon. Colon and Arroyo have been signed, and theoretically the O's could still sign any of the first three, though it will surprise no one if that does not happen. (At Camden Depot, we've covered the Jimenez, Santana, and Burnett possibilities.)
The most recent to sign, Arroyo, agreed to a two-year, $23.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks on Friday. The deal includes a $11 million option in 2016 (and a $4.5 million buyout). According to The Sun's Dan Connolly, the Orioles were in it for Arroyo:
According to multiple sources, the Orioles' final offer to Arroyo was exceptionally competitive with Arizona's, with the guaranteed money similar but slightly lower. But there was a chance for Arroyo to make more money with the Orioles than with the Diamondbacks if a third-year option had kicked in.So the Orioles tried for Arroyo, but they didn't have the best deal (even if the third-year option offer from the Orioles was more lucrative). Still, as Connolly notes, there were other factors that likely contributed to Arroyo's choice: pitching in Arizona, staying in the National League, and avoiding the O's recent adventures with players' physicals (involving Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin). So Arroyo not signing with the Orioles makes sense, and it's not like the O's made him an offer he couldn't refuse. But why should they have, anyway?
But Schmuck wasn't happy with the Orioles letting yet another free agent get away. Here's his case for Arroyo:
This has a chance to be one of those for-want-of-a-nail-the-kingdom-was-lost situations. If the Orioles end up falling short of the playoffs by a couple of games this season, it'll be easy to look back and see how shortsighted they were by not making a better play for a pitcher who, at a stage this late in the offseason, still offered just about everything the club was looking for.First, it's good that we've pointed out that Bronson Arroyo is not Clayton Kershaw. Second, can we stop with the "if the O's end up falling short of the playoffs by a couple of games" scenarios? If that happens, then looking back at one single anything, barring a single miraculous play that is solely responsible for a team missing the postseason, is misguided. Some fans did this last season with Jim Johnson's blown saves. It's just not that simple. Johnson blew several saves, sure. But other players missed chances to win games at various points late in games; starters got shelled early and were forced to leave games; and players made mental mistakes at inopportune times. If the Orioles end up simply being a Bronson Arroyo short of missing the playoffs, then we're either massively underrating their current roster or overrating the rest of the AL East (or both). And if Arroyo was the single missing ingredient, then the Orioles would certainly have missed a golden opportunity to make a very good roster that much better with one or two of the top names listed above. And I think it's reasonable to slam the Orioles on that front.
Arroyo is no Clayton Kershaw, but he's a consistent, productive pitcher who has worked at least 199 innings in each of the past nine seasons. He's about to turn 37, but he still seemed like a reasonably safe play since he was willing to sign for just two years guaranteed.
Still, let's be clear: As Schmuck says, Arroyo is a fine pitcher. But the Orioles already have a collection of fine pitchers. They are in need of a great one, or two. Beyond the Box Score had a couple of smart tweets about that on Monday:
Steamer projects a 1.8 fWAR for Bronson Arroyo in 2014. The five #Orioles' projected starters all are projected to be better/the same.
— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) February 10, 2014
#Orioles' Steamer Projections... Tillman: 2.4 M. Gonzalez: 1.7 Chen: 2.0 Norris: 1.8 Gausman: 2.1 And, Arroyo for comparison: 1.8Arroyo's stretch of innings pitched over the last decade is impressive, and he'd bring a little bit more stability to the O's rotation. But is he really that much of an improvement over Miguel Gonzalez or Bud Norris, or even Kevin Gausman (or whoever wins the O's fifth rotation spot)? I'd say no. Not only will he be 37, but he's a risky signing because his earned run averages are somewhat misleading, and because he has a platoon split issue that could become more of a problem now that he's leaving the NL Central.
— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) February 10, 2014
Arroyo made some sense for the Orioles because he's a starter who stays healthy and has been able to pitch a bunch of innings. But there were players who made more sense to go after, and Arroyo wasn't in the top five of starters the O's should have been targeting from the beginning of the offseason.
If you want to stomp your feet and complain about the O's refusal to increase the payroll more, go ahead. I'm just as irritated at some of the team's current philosophies on bringing in free agents. This entire offseason has been perplexing. But the O's not signing Arroyo shouldn't be the last straw. Burnett makes more sense for the Orioles anyway, and I will be more frustrated if/when he doesn't land in Baltimore. He may want to stay in the National League, and that's his right. But if he's truly only going to pitch one more season, the can't-refuse type of offer would make more sense for Burnett, not Arroyo.