Conversation about Bronson Arroyo and the Dodgers seems to be picking up steam, so I guess it’s time to address it here. We first heard about possible interest weeks ago, but the noise is getting a lot louder now, with Jon Morosi saying the Dodgers “remain in active talks,” Buster Olney suggesting that if Arroyo wants to go to Los Angeles, “I’d bet there’s a two-year deal waiting for him,” Bob Nightengale adding that the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Orioles are the finalists, with Arizona “slight favorites,” and Nick Cafardo saying Arizona is “very serious”.
Set aside the fact that two of those names represent my least favorite national columnists, and understand that this amount of conversation doesn’t happen if there’s not at least a little fire to the smoke. Reaction to this among Dodger fans has been predictably negative — somewhat unfairly, in my opinion — so let’s take a look at this. Would it be so bad if the Dodgers did get Arroyo? Or do we actually want him to go to Arizona?
Before even worrying about Arroyo, the question is if the Dodgers even need another starter, and we’ve been over this a few times. The short version is no, they don’t need another starter; the longer version is that there’s enough uncertainty between Dan Haren and Josh Beckett and the young guys and how badly this all blew up last year that if you can get someone at a reasonable price, then it’s not the worst idea in the world.
So what about Arroyo specifically? He’s long been a tough guy to nail down, because he doesn’t miss any bats and he gives up a lot of homers, which isn’t great, but he makes up for that with excellent control and nearly unparalled durability. (He has basically nine straight years with 200 innings pitched, if we can ignore that he came three outs short in 2011.) It’s that sort of approach that makes advanced metrics hate him, really; FanGraphs had Arroyo as being worth fewer than 2 WAR in four of the last five years.
But while I generally believe in WAR, there’s some particular players that it has trouble with, particularly pitchers who have big separations between their ERA and FIP, and Arroyo is one of them. His peripherals never look great, but he somehow keeps runs off the board. With the exception of a lousy 2011, his ERA has been in the threes in four of the last five years, and so he looks far better by RA9-WAR, which is on the same scale as regular WAR: 3.7, 3.8, -0.3, 3.6, 2.7. (That 2011 was really bad.)
He gets by in part by walking nobody — 114 in his last 603 innings, which is excellent — but the homer problem persists. In theory, getting out of Cincinnati to Dodger Stadium, which would take him out of one of the worst homer parks in the bigs to a relatively neutral park, would be a help, but then again he’s had an almost negligible difference in his homer rate between home and the road. (This makes me sad, because I was hoping that if he ended up in Arizona, we could be all “haaa, watch those dingers,” but it might not matter as much as we’d hoped.)
I have to say that I prefer Arroyo to Beckett, because 200 innings of roughly average baseball is a nice thing to have, but it really depends on the term. At the beginning of the winter, he reportedly wanted a three-year deal. That seems unlikely now, and Joel Sherman reports that it could now be in the 2/$22m range, and that doesn’t seem unreasonable; Anyway, the only guaranteed starters the Dodgers have in the 2015 rotation right now are Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu.
There’s an argument to be made that adding an $11m starter is silly when you already have $15.75m of Josh Beckett reportedly healthy and $12m of Chad Billingsley working his way back. There’s also an argument to be made that Beckett is toast, Billingsley can’t be counted on yet, and $11m to the Dodgers is something like the nickel you see on the floor but are too lazy to actually bend over to collect.
My guess is that this won’t happen, because Arizona probably needs him more, and Baltimore definitely needs him more. And if he’s a Diamondback, no matter what those home/road splits say, we’ll still be all “lolll homerz,”. But if the price is right, and you really don’t care about Beckett, Arroyo is really not a bad guy to have around at the back of a rotation. We’ll see if it actually happens.