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Is Bronson Arroyo worth 3 years and $35 million?

Earlier today, word got out that the Reds had agreed with Bronson Arroyo on a 3 year, $35 mil extension.  Just after the season ended, they picked up the $11.5 mil option on his contract.  This deal supersedes that one.  This should not come as a surprise though, because we heard a while back that they were talking about an extension.  But is it a good one?

Ehhhhhhhh...prolly not.  According to both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference WARs, Bron-Bron has basically been an average pitcher over the past 4 years.  He gets almost all his value by taking the hill every 5th day, and I mean EVERY fifth day.  Dude hasn't missed a start since, like, the Clinton administration.  That is the kind of consistency you can set your watch to.  But he's going to be 34 next season, and 36 in the last year of this deal.  He's been very consistent during his reign in Cincy, but can he keep that up?  And more importantly, is that level of consistency worth $11-12 mil a year? 

The answer to the first question is...i dunno.  That's the risk you take when you sign an aging pitcher to a lucrative extension.  If I were a betting man, I'd say Arroyo is one of the safest bets in the game to keep on keepin' on.  But in order for this deal to work out, he almost has to.  A roughly average pitcher is probably worth between $10-12 mil a year on the open market right now, so he'd have to maintain just for the Reds to break even.  And it would be quite a surprise if he outperforms the pace he's set over the past 4 years, so it's highly unlikely that this will turn out to be a net-positive for the Reds.  So the best-case scenario is that the Reds end up getting equal value back on this investment.  I'm not a Wall Street wizard, but that doesn't sound like a good investment to me.

All that said, as much as any player on the team, Arroyo offers value beyond the diamond.  His veteran presence is probably a positive for the young pitching staff, and did I mention his consistency?  Arroyo throwing 200+ innings a year means Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez and Homer Bailey and everyone else aren't as stressed to do it themselves.  Not to mention the bullpen.  Also, as the longest-tenured player on the team now, he has a face that fans recognize and love.  We'll call that the "Jeter Quotient".  It may not translate to W's on the scoreboard, but it can't hurt neither.

Conversely, his presence in the rotation over the next 3 years means one fewer spot for guys like Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, and all the other talented young pitchers this team has stockpiled.  Arroyo was already signed for the 2011 season, which meant he could be around to tutor all the young guys and teach them about curveballs, pick-off moves, and birddoggin' chicks.  By 2013, these kids won't be kids anymore.  If he's even still a serviceable pitcher by then, he may have outlived his utility.  If that happens, I guess we can hope he is tradeable.  And if the past two years of trade rumors are any indication, the Reds would probably have to eat significant salary salads in order to make that happen.

So all together, this is probably not a great move for the team to make right now.  There may be a few million dollars saved in the short term, but the likelihood that this deal ends up paying dividends is pretty dim.  They would have been better served by picking up the option and leaving it at that.