11 February 2014

Peter Schmuck Is Wrong on Bronson Arroyo

Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun has been beating the "Orioles and Peter Angelos aren't spending enough money on free agents" drum pretty loudly, and it's a popular one among fans. I agree that spending money on free agents -- specifically top-tier ones -- seemed like a good idea heading into the offseason. The O's made the playoffs in 2012, were competitive in 2013, and could use a couple of talented players to go with the solid core of players they currently have. But the O's have only signed Ryan Webb and a bunch of fringe major leaguers and minor league free agents. And they opted to stay out of the bidding wars for Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, and Shin-Soo Choo. Those were arguably the top four players on the market, and the Orioles have been unwilling to shell out that kind of money for free agents.

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.

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.
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.

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:
Arroyo'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.

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.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with every point you made. Now that AJ went back to the NL I think you focus on Santana; but only if you can sign him to a multi-year contract. Otherwise I would keep the draft pick and leave the money in the bank for Davis and or Wieters. Honestly I don't see how Baltimore has room for both of their contracts long term. Manny will need to get paid before you know it, and you certainly don't want to insult him like the Angels did with Trout. Hmm.. He's from NJ; he would look good in left field . . . .

Anonymous said...

The Orioles not signing Burnett is anything but surprising. How many times do we have to hear that "the Orioles are interested in ..." and then the player in question signs elsewhere. There's not a chance they're going to sign both Davis and Wieters long term so if they're not going to go all out to win now they may as well trade one (or both) of them and start rebuilding on their annual low budget.

Scott said...

My issue is that Arroyo is much more of a known pitcher than what the O's currently have. We have no reason to expect Chen or Gonzalez can all of a sudden go deep into games. Gausman probably would benefit from a little time in AAA, and not having to start for the O's out of Spring training simply because there is no one else besides him(and no I do not consider the other options as "legit" considering they haven't been able to stick in the role for more than 2 starts). My main concern is that the O's will continue to rush their starters up to the Majors simply because there aren't any other promising options. This team will contend enough to want to win, meaning they won't stick with Britton(or anyone else) simply to fine tune Gausman as a pitcher. This team was the 2nd most profitable team in MLB last year according to Forbs, and that doesn't even include the extremely profitable MASN deal. Spend a little on rounding out the roster not only to contend this year, but also to protect the prospects from being forced into the Majors.

Anonymous said...

What an idiotic article... Probably paid by Angelos to write.. Angelos is a greedy dirt bag who is making more money than he has ever before and is unwilling to sign anyone that isn't a huge bargain. O's fans delt with 15 losing seasons in a row and now the opportunity to continue this trend of growth and winning was ended by an owner more worried about his 0's in his bank account rather than the legacy he leaves behind.

If you actually believe Cano and a Garza or other decent pitcher wouldn't of drastically changed this team for the better you are high off your ass.

All good when Angelos dies no one (besides his kids) will care about how much wealth he had. He will always be known as the 2nd worst owner of a MLB team only behind the Marlins owner.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Obviously you didn't read the article. I never said the Orioles and Angelos should not be spending money -- quite the opposite, actually. Thanks for wasting everyone's time with a mean-spirited comment, though.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think what draws a lot of folks in is the frenzy that this team needs to do something. However, I would argue that the line of the Orioles doing something ended long ago with those elite players signing. Arroyo is not a line in the sand that anyone should be drawing. He is an old plow horse who required a steep proven veteran commitment.

Truth is, the motley crew of Orioles pitchers can do just as well as Arroyo. In other words, back end rotation well. That is a fine, respectable arm. The Orioles have several that are cheap and require no additional commitment.

Again, I have no idea why people are so concerned about Arroyo. The Orioles time to improve ended long ago when they failed to sign or trade for anyone of importance. This team needs an additional star or two at least. They got David Lough and Ryan Webb instead.

Mike Bonsiero said...

I agree that Arroyo isn't that much better than Gonzalez, Norris or Chen, but to me, that isn't the point. With this group of pitchers last season (more or less), the Orioles had the 27th best ERA in the majors. This is despite all of those guys being pretty decent (if overslotted) pitchers. Why? Because they had 31 starts made by Freddy Gonzalez et al. Pitchers get hurt, and none of the Orioles 2-5 have any track record of carrying a major innings load. So I don't look at Arroyo as an improvement over Chen/Norris/Gonzalez or even Gausman, but I see him as an improvement over the fill-in starts that they and every team will have this year.

I'm not saying to sign him as the 6th starter, but bumping everyone down a notch improves the depth in a needed way, and that could definitely be worth a couple of wins, given that he'd literally be replacing replacement level production.

Is that worth the money he got? Perhaps not, but given their seeming reluctance to spend that money on higher impact players (as you discussed)I don't see the point in saving it. As a fan who doesn't have his own money at stake, I'm in favor of them spending to make the team better, even if it's at less than ideal value (assuming of course we're talking short term deals like Arroyos deal was).

Jon Shepherd said...

If it was a one year deal, I can see the point. However, his deal takes future seasons money. Getting boxed into a corner does not mean you all of a sudden start declaring the corner is the best place to be.

Unknown said...

Another great commentary and analysis. I'm not convinced the O's need to add another high priced starter especially at these prices including draft picks. Yoon makes more sense as someone to take a chance on.

But what happens if Jimenez and Santana go unsigned into the season? If they delay signing until after the draft what happens to the compensatory pick? I recall hearing that it gets forfeited then. If you don't want to give up the draft pick can you pull this off?

Jon Shepherd said...

If they go unsigned past the draft then they no longer require compensation. So...mid-June.

Mike Bonsiero said...

If it was a one year deal, I can see the point. However, his deal takes future seasons money. Getting boxed into a corner does not mean you all of a sudden start declaring the corner is the best place to be.

Only one more year though. I'd worry about that if I were convinced they spend that money in a more valuable way next off-season. But I don't see any evidence that they'll be able to get a better pitcher than Arroyo for that money next year, either.

Chito Martinez said...

Matt, I appreciate your analysis on this site, even if it is paid for by Peter Angelos.

It is getting a little weird to see people in the media bend over backwards to argue the O's should just sign ANY veteran pitcher, regardless of their actual value &/or cost.

Now that A.J. is officially a Phillie, this is purely hypothetical, but do you think it would have been worth it to over-pay to woo him to the O's this season? I mean, it seems like it would have been worth spending $17/18 million for one season of a ~3 win pitcher.

Jon Shepherd said...

@Bonzi - Well, the issue there is that you are betting that Arroyo is a 2 win pitcher not just in 2014, but all in 2015. All that without a discount in cost. You may be able to get Burnett, Beckett, Correia, De La Rosa, Dempster, Kendrick, Maholm, Masterson, McCarthy, Peavy, and Rodriguez...others too. It seems a 2 win pitcher should be available next year just as well and you don't have to bet on their health or ability to sustain performance.

@Chito - Some people actually do think we have an affiliation with the Orioles. We don't. We would probably drive nicer cars otherwise.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yes, I would have been fine with them spending that kind of money on just one year of Burnett. But I guess I can understand them not wanting to guy that high. He would have helped, though.