COMMENTARY: Since the Cincinnati Reds traded for starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo prior to the start of the 2006 season, no other pitcher has started more games than Arroyo as of May 26 (tied with Dan Haren of the Washington Nationals with 243). During that span, Arroyo also ranks sixth in innings pitched (1554.2) and seventh in wins (96). Even his 4.06 ERA is a respectable 29th among the 53 pitchers who have chored at least 1,000 innings since 2006.
These mule-like numbers are a testament not only to Arroyo's conditioning and durability but also his intelligence in how he has managed to feature a wiffle ball-like repertoire of off-speed pitches from a variety of arm slots that somehow seem to bamboozle hitters more often than not. That repertoire and command of it are likely to keep Arroyo in a starting rotation for at least five years if not more, just not the Reds' rotation.
The Arroyo Contract
Besides the fact that the Reds have younger, cheaper and better options than Arroyo available to them for their rotation now, there's just no way the Reds should offer Arroyo the kind of coin he will command in the open market, which the Reds did do last time around with a three-year, $35-million extension for Arroyo before the start of the 2011 season. That extension featured $15 million in deferred money, most of which the Reds will keep paying to Arroyo in annual installments through 2021 regardless where Arroyo plays in the future. The terms of the deferred money in his contract extension will keep Arroyo with the Reds through the 2013 season because the remainder of the deferred money would have to be paid up front to Arroyo should the Reds try to trade him this year, but after 2013 Arroyo will take his services elsewhere.
Given the unprecedented situation the Reds find themselves with a surging payroll and growing expected revenues from TV, radio and gate attendance, the Reds are likely to find themselves in a position to make one sizable payroll move either this year or during the off-season. Arroyo may be willing to return to the Reds at a reduced rate by rolling the deferred money of his current contract into a one-year deal for 2014, but the Reds should pass in favor of other options.
The most likely scenario is that the Reds will prioritize Aroldis Chapman prior to the end of this year before annually-deferred bonus money in his contract payable through 2021 starts to convert into bigger bonus money for 2014, which is triggered when Chapman qualifies for arbitration eligibility after this year. The Reds will have to pay Chapman a minimum of $6 million for 2014 which will be his last season with the Reds if a contract extension can't be reached within five days after the end of the 2014 World Series because Chapman will balk at the $5-million player option for 2015 unless he's not healthy.
Should the Reds opt not to prioritize Chapman this year, they will be staring down a couple of other options. One of those options is a six-year, $90-million contract extension for Shin-Soo Choo, which is what it would probably take for Choo's agent Scott Boras to keep Choo out of the free agent market after season's end. If re-signing Choo proves too rich for the Reds' blood, they might prioritize trading for arbitration-eligible superstars like David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays or Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins. The amount of money involved in controlling the salary of either of these two players for the next two years would be comparable to the price it would cost the Reds to pay Arroyo for two more years. Of course the Reds would pay an exorbitant cost in trading top prospects to acquire either Price or Stanton.
Other Trade Options
Aside from potential trade market for arbitration-eligible stars like Price and Stanton, the Reds could still be significant players for a right-handed hitting power hitter to fill the void in left field created by the opening day injury to Ryan Ludwick. As the non-waiver trade deadline approaches at the end of July, more teams will be willing to make deals for players they really don't need. The pool of players that would fit the bill for the Reds would likely be limited to the likes of Josh Willingham of the Minnesota Twins, Carlos Quentin of the San Diego Padres, Chris Young of the Oakland A's, and perhaps Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies.
Arroyo Still Out
Even if the Reds don't make any kind of higher-dollar move this year or after the season, Arroyo is still on the outside looking in as he takes advantage of pitching during a contract year for a team that is a World Series contender. The trade to acquire Arroyo and $1.5 million in cash from the Boston Red Sox for Wily Mo Pena will go down as one of the better ones in Reds' history, thanks to one of the most unusual pitchers in Reds' history.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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