MLB rumors: Where is Bronson Arroyo going?

Bronson Arroyo is a lot of things. He’s a singer. He’s a pitchman. He’s a pitcher-man. He’s a slop-tossing, dooky-chimblin’ flimflam artist who will be exposed for the fraud he is one of these years, unless he’s a valuable starting pitcher who keeps proving that pitchers don’t need to throw hard to succeed. And he’s a free agent.

Let’s focus on him as a pitcher and a free agent. He’s an unconventional pitcher, all right, at least relative to his peers. Here’s his velocity chart, via FanGraphs:

Arroyo_medium

At some point, PITCHf/x gave up registering his fastball during the 2013 season, sighing a computerized sigh and moving on to more useful things. Arroyo is more about the sinker now. Sinkers and hilariously slow curveballs.

Would you believe this approach doesn’t lead to a ton of strikeouts? It does not lead to a ton of strikeouts. Arroyo is consistently among the worst qualifying starting pitchers when it comes to strikeout rate. Even though he has superlative command, the strikeout rate is still obscenely low. Do you know what FIP is?

If you didn’t, you do now. And it’s much better at predicting future success for pitchers than ERA is. For most pitchers, that is.

Year ERA FIP WAR (FanGraphs) WAR (Baseball-Reference.com)
2009 3.84 4.78 1.6 2.6
2010 3.88 4.61 1.7 2.2
2011 5.07 5.71 -1.5 -1
2012 3.74 4.08 2.4 3.6
2013 3.79 4.49 0 2.5

That’s Arroyo’s career since his strikeout rate took the kids and left. Remember that he’s pitched half his games in Great American Ballpark, too, which isn’t the friendliest park for fly balls. Still, every year, his ERA was a half- to full-run better than FIP would predict.

A vote for Arroyo, then, is a vote for the idea that he’s a special pitcher, one for whom the rules don’t apply. If a team is willing to give him three years and many millions, they’re banking on the idea that Arroyo is an outlier, and that he can prevent runs better than the typical pitcher with his strikeout rate.

That’s a pretty big assumption — that because Arroyo dooks so hard, he became the kind of pitcher FIP can’t classify well, which is usually something only knuckleballers and crafty left-handers can say. We’re talking about more than 1,000 innings from Arroyo over the last five years, so I buy the theory that he’s different.

But I wouldn’t want to buy it. Not with my own millions. Borrow it, maybe. Lease it. But not buy it.

The Ideal

Arroyo himself listed some of the teams asking about him:

“Yeah, it’s definitely in the early stages,” Arroyo said. “Nobody’s really put a dollar bill in front of me but I have, I think, the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Giants, the Twins, maybe even the Orioles, I think all those teams have called, you know, just to say that they are interested.

Of all those teams, only one of them makes perfect sense. We’re talking cosmically, here. The Twins have spent the last few years actively shaping and forming their staff to exclude strikeout pitchers, and it failed miserably last year. The Twins have been the only team to finish with fewer than 1,000 strikeouts since 2010, and they’ve done it three straight times. It hasn’t translated to run prevention, however.

Arroyo, then, is the face on the Twins’ tortilla. He’s the saint, the chosen one. He can make the Twins better, and he can teach his wily ways to the rest of the dook brigade.

Really, it makes far too much sense not to happen. Arroyo was made for the Twins, and the Twins are like some sort of social-engineering experiment designed to capture Bronson Arroyo.

The Favorites

Still the Twins. But Arroyo is going to cost some money, of which the Twins don’t have an excess. Even if the Twins are planning to retire his jersey whether he pitches for them or not, Arroyo still might go to the highest bidder. And the Dodgers are of those names up there.

But I’ll still go with the Giants, who think Arroyo is a fantastic fit for their needs and/or ballpark. They might be biased because of this:

Your browser does not support iframes.

I know I am. He seems like the perfect fit for a park with an expansive outfield, and the Giants have both the money and the need.

Prediction

Angels: three years, $39 million

The Angels should probably stop spending money. But they won’t want to look like they’ve stopped spending money. They’ll need to keep up appearances. And their biggest offseason need is pitching. They also have a fly-friendly park, and they’ll also have a stellar outfield defense most of the time. The stars are aligned, then.

That third year is a killer in this scenario, just awful. There’s no way he’ll be worth $13 million when he’s 39, but the extra year is always what teams have to give for the pitcher they want in free agency. Considering that Arroyo is the name-brand Jerome Williams, the Angels will get a little better, even if they have to spend to get there.

Laugh at the eventual contract if you want, but I’ll also predict that Arroyo keeps that ERA lower than his FIP for the next couple years. He’s just one of those freaks. And the contract he signs won’t seem so awful by the time it’s up.

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