Per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Cincinnati Reds have decided not to offer Bronson Arroyo a $14.1 million, one year Qualifying Offer for the 2014 season, and as a result, Arroyo will have the opportunity to explore signing with any team in baseball without having a 1st round draft pick forfeiture factored into his negotiations.
This was predictable, and while the allure of netting a draft pick thanks to a team being willing to give Arroyo big dollars and not draft in next year's 1st round is a fun thing to dream about, there's not a team out there that would've been realistically willing to do that. As I detailed a few weeks back (rather circuitously, I must admit), the track record for pitchers in their late 30s getting multi-year contracts is sparse in itself, but there's zero record of pitchers of Arroyo's age getting the kind of contract he seeks while being tagged with costing a draft pick:
The Reds also watched the market develop last season, and they'll be keenly aware that nobody in Arroyo's current position signed a contract the size of the one in his dreams. No free agent pitcher in Arroyo's current age-range signed for longer than one season, in fact, and most every one of those didn't have a QO induced draft pick loss attached to their resume. Not Hiroki Kuroda, not Bartolo Colon, not even the younger Dan Haren. The Reds likely know that even without the draft pick stigma, Arroyo's market would likely not be as deep as he thinks, so they'll be wary of extending him a QO, knowing that there's a very large chance he'd accept and tack an additional $14 million onto an already team record payroll. Not extending a QO, however, risks letting a potential shot at an additional Top 40 pick in the 2014 draft flutter away, which is a large thing to pass up on given the context of Todd Frazier and Michael Lorenzen's early performances.
My best bet? The Reds won't extend a QO, and they'll let Arroyo explore his options. The page will turn, the rotation will reset, and the Reds will take heart in knowing that they'll still receive a compensation pick by letting Shin-Soo Choo decline the QO extended to him. It seems an unfitting end for a player as dependable as Arroyo, but it also means the Reds didn't let him leave the team too soon, for ultimately, being granted a gift pick by MLB for seeing a player leave means that the team waving goodbye didn't get their player under contract for long enough. In the Reds' case with Arroyo, I think they did just that.
The Reds were comfortable in knowing that had they extended a QO to Arroyo, there was a very realistic chance that the best contract he would see from any of the 30 teams would be their own 1 year, $14 million offer, and that was simply more than they wanted to pay for their fifth starter. The risk of him accepting became too great. Paying a pitcher an 8 figure salary is one thing when the other four members of the rotation are making peanuts, as has been the case for much of Arroyo's tenure in the Queen City; with Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Mike Leake all now making millions a year, paying Arroyo that much again was just too much to ask with other pressing needs on the offseason docket.
This will help Arroyo get more money on his next deal, of course, and more power to him for having that ability. While this doesn't prevent the Reds from signing him and bringing him back, it does make it all but certain that they will part ways. Best of luck to Bronson in his search for another multi-year deal, and congratulations to the front office of the Reds for getting the most out of Arroyo for 8 solid seasons without being on the hook for paying for him longer than they should.