The Off-Season Pitching Market: How does the Arroyo deal compare?

On December 3rd, the Reds announced that they had signed Bronson Arroyo to a 3 year, $35 mil extension.  At the time of the signing, I was not impressed and my view of it has not changed much.  Since then, we have learned that much of Arroyo's money is deferred, which softens the rough edges a bit, but we've also learned much more about the pitching market.  Wandy Rodriguez agreed to a 3 year, $34 mil extension with the Astros yesterday, which is pretty much identical to the deal Arroyo signed (sans the deferments, and the fact that Wandy was in his last year of arb).  So it made me wonder just how the Arroyo deal stacks up to other deals that have been signed this off-season.

Below is a list of free agent pitchers (culled from MLBTR's FA tracker) who signed for $5 mil or more this off-season (plus Wandy and minus Cliff Lee, because that's not fair) with their last three seasons of IP, FIP, and WAR included:

contract IP (last 3 years) FIPs WAR
Bronson Arroyo 3y/35mil 200/220.1/215.2 4.50/4.78/4.61 5.7
Kevin Correia 2y/8mil 110/198/145 5.10/3.81/4.71 3.2
Jorge De La Rosa 2y/22.5mil 130/185/121.2 4.06/3.91/4.30 7.8
Jon Garland 1y/5mil 196.2/204/200 4.76/4.48/4.41 5
Ted Lilly 3y/33mil 204.2/177/193.2 4.41/3.65/4.27 8.9
Carl Pavano 2y/16.5mil 34.1/199.1/221 5.37/4.00/4.02 7
Wandy Rodriguez 3y/34mil 137.1/205.2/195 3.62/3.54/3.50 10.2
Jake Westbrook 2y/17.5mil 34.2/xxx/202.2 3.91/xxx/4.09 2.7

 

It's also important to note that Garland, De La Rosa, Lilly, and Westbrook all signed before Arroyo's extension, so a fairly clear picture of the market had been set.  As you can see, Arroyo's deal is nearly identical to both Lilly's and Wandy's, though they have been clearly superior pitchers the past few years.  There are no perfect comparisons for Arroyo performance-wise, but his closest analogs are Garland and Pavano who are being paid significantly less (that Garland deal looks like an absolute steal for the Trolley Dodgers). 

So it looks like the Arroyo deal is a significant overpay when compared to the rest of the market.  Of course, this assessment ignores the special circumstances of the deal, like the deferments and especially the restructuring of the option.  But the Reds had the choice to decline the option and let Arroyo go as a free agent, which is looking more and more like the best choice in hindsight.  Only the Lilly deal had been completed when the Reds made the decision on the option, so there were a number of other pitchers out there at the time.  It seems Walt overestimated the market when he agreed to pay the $11.5 mil.  The best road was probably to decline the option and attempt to re-sign Arroyo as a free agent.  The Reds probably could have gotten him for Pavano/Westbrook money instead of Lilly/Wandy money.

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