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SAN FRANCISCO – Our offseason “Pros and Cons” series continues with a look at a guitar-picking pitcher who tops out at 87 mph on a good day – and no, we’re not talking about Barry Zito. It’s right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who kicks high and lets his long hair fly.
Should the Giants target Arroyo? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:
The Giants want dependable innings and nobody is better at taking the ball every fifth day than Arroyo. His 265 starts are the most by any major league pitcher over the past eight seasons. And he has topped 200 innings in eight of the last nine years. (The lone exception came in 2011, when he threw 199.) He also throws you a couple complete games every year, including two this past season – matching the total the Giants received from their staff in 2013. He’s not an ace, but he’ll give you a chance to win. Arroyo was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA for the Reds last season.
Arroyo dishes out more baseballs than a souvenir vendor. His 252 home runs allowed over the last eight years are the most in the major leagues. His 32 homers allowed last season led all NL pitchers. No doubt, it’d be a huge help to shift from hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park to the shores of McCovey Cove. Still, when you sign Arroyo, you might want to invest in some reinforced bleachers.
Arroyo will be 37 in February and won’t require a four-year deal, which makes him a good fit for the Giants’ short-term thinking. Because the Reds didn’t extend him a qualifying offer, signing Arroyo won’t cost you a first-round draft pick, either.
Because Arroyo isn’t tied to draft compensation, he’ll be one of the most popular pitchers on the free-agent market. Reports indicate as many as eight teams have inquired already, with some multiyear offers already on the table. The Yankees are involved, too. Arroyo is willing to play anywhere, and will let “the almighty dollar” make his decision for him. So he’ll let the market play out as long as necessary. That might not be a good match for Giants GM Brian Sabean, who’s interested in striking fast. There’s a decent chance someone blinks and gives Arroyo a third year, too.
Did we mention that both of Arroyo’s complete games last season came against the Giants? He has a 2.69 ERA in 14 career games against them, and allowed just one run over his two starts vs. the Giants last season. How does that saying go? If you can’t beat ‘em, sign ‘em. Plus Arroyo is a great clubhouse influence, and he keeps the room loose.
Think of Arroyo as a right-handed Kirk Rueter. That’s meant compliment, of course. But it didn’t end well for Rueter, whose decline in his early 30s was precipitous. Arroyo probably can’t afford to lose any more steam off his fastball. According to Pitch/FX, Arroyo’s 87 mph average heater was the third slowest among qualified major league starters behind Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey. (Barry Zito, at 82.6 mph, would’ve ranked only ahead of Dickey if he had thrown enough innings to qualify.) Arroyo also has played for one of the better defensive clubs in the majors, so he hasn’t had any qualms about pitching to contact. The Giants don’t have the same defensive reputation, at least based on some of the ugliness we saw last season. He’s a guy who does well with run support and fancy glovework, and the Giants didn’t have much of either last season.
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The sheer number of teams considering Arroyo means he’ll probably get a third year from someone. He’d be a decent fit as a back-end rotation guy on a two-year deal if the Giants could get him – especially if they can add an experienced arm like Tim Hudson or Dan Haren, too. The Giants should be involved on Arroyo – to a point.
Arroyo probably should stay in the NL, but he’ll go to the highest bidder. The Mets have a big ballpark, money coming off the books and they need to rebuild their rotation. We’ll bet he likes the sound of three years and $28 million, played in any chord.