The A’s have won back-to-back AL West championships riding good young pitching and timely hitting. Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily, and Tommy Milone all have seen career highs in innings pitched over the last two seasons (some being split between Triple-A Sacramento and Oakland). While this in itself should not be cause for concern the A’s will need to go into 2014 expecting some type of breakdown from someone. It happens every season, a team with a good rotation loses one good pitcher and the others have to pick up the slack. One starting pitcher left on the market could be a perfect for the A’s and his price is quietly dropping.
One of the most consistent pitchers of the last nine years has been starter Bronson Arroyo. He is one of only two pitchers (Mark Buehrle) to throw at least 199 innings and average 33 starts a season in the past nine seasons according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Stark reported Wednesday that Arroyo was growing frustrated at his lack of offers. He earned nearly $16.5 million last season with the Cincinnati Reds where he had spent the bulk of his career. He turns 37 at the end of February.
Arroyo’s situation is an interesting one. It has been reported that he is looking for a 3-year deal in the $30 million range. His past numbers reflect that a contract at the AAV (average annual value) is not far out of the question. Arroyo went 14-12 last season with a 3.79 ERA (in a hitter’s park) and a respectable 1.153 WHIP. As Stark pointed out Arroyo’s walk ratio and hits per nine innings has dropped each of the last three seasons. The problem with his contract demands is the fact that he is going to be 37-years-old at the beginning of the 2014 season. A 3-year deal would put him at 40-years-old at the end of it. That is a big risk for a team to take on at $10 million a year even with an increase in payrolls and revenue from MLB’s new revenue sharing plans.
On the A’s end of things Arroyo could play a vital role in their success in 2014. With so many pitchers with abnormal miles on their arms the A’s would do well to acquire a pitcher who can withstand an entire season and be consistent while doing it. You could certainly point to the A’s depth at the position and say Arroyo is not needed. With the above mentioned Parker, Gray, Griffin, Straily, and Milone going along with the new acquisitions of Scott Kazmir, Drew Pomeranz, and Josh Lindblom the A’s have plenty of depth in the starting pitching department. However, Arroyo is a better pitcher, even at 37, then three of those pitchers. Also, if Arroyo was to be signed some of that depth could become expendable giving the A’s some flexibility going into Spring Training and at the trade deadline.
There is no discounting the value of a durable and consistent starting pitcher. Starting pitching depth is arguably the most valuable commodity to have in baseball. The A’s have plenty of depth and talent, but they also have a lot of injury and durability risks. If Bronson Arroyo’s price continues to drop as it has been reported, the A’s could potentially have another offseason steal on their hands. A 2-year deal with an option for a third year at $8 million a season would be a great get for an A’s team poised to make another run at the AL West crown.