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Catch-61: Signing Arroyossarian

The negotiations will be simple and complex, complex and simple. Or simple. Or complex.

The contract came down, missing him by millions, and he took off.
The contract came down, missing him by millions, and he took off.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

"You mean there's a catch?" said Arroyossarian.

"Sure there's a catch," Doc Jockeeta replied. "Catch-61. Anyone who is worth $30 million isn't really worth $14 million."

There was only one catch and that was Catch-61, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Lorrhse was worth $50 million and could be signed. All he had to do was say so; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be worth $50 million and would have nobody telling him he'd be worth half that. Lorrhse would be crazy to say he was worth $50 million and sane if he said he wasn't, but if he was sane, he would never be signed for even $20 million because he'd be telling those who could sign him he wasn't worth $50 million. If he said he was worth it, he wouldn't get it; but if he said he wasn't worth it, he'd have more people offering it. Arroyossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-61 and began to strum his favorite Three Doors Down B-side on his guitar.

Bronson Arroyo wants the Cincinnati Reds to be convinced that he's not worth the contract he wants so that they, the team, won't extend him a qualifying offer.

The Cincinnati Reds want Bronson Arroyo to be convinced that he's worth more than their one year qualifying offer so that he, the player, won't accept it.

If the team extends Arroyo the qualifying offer, it will be because they think that he's convinced he's worth more than the qualifying offer, and if the team does not extend Arroyo the qualifying offer, it will be because they're not convinced that he thinks he's worth more than the qualifying offer.  However, by not extending the qualifying offer - a sign that they think he's not convinced he's worth more than said offer - Arroyo will likely be able to sign for more than either thought he was worth, and, conversely, extending the offer - an admission that the team thinks that Arroyo thinks he's worth more - will likely result in Arroyo accepting the offer and sticking around Cincinnati for an additional season because, of course, it will make him not worth what he otherwise thought.

In order to achieve what Arroyo ultimately wants, which is a contract for multiple years at roughly the same salary at which he's been compensated in previous seasons, he will have to convince the team that's employed him for 8 seasons, the Cincinnati Reds, that he's not worth resigning at even a fraction of the contract he currently seeks.  In order for the Cincinnati Reds to not be left empty handed at the end of the negotiations, they'll be forced to offer a contract to a player who is telling them he's not worth it.  If the Reds say he's worth it, they'll likely get him at less than they said he was worth, which is not what they want, and it will mean Arroyo, who thinks he's worth more, will ultimately get less from a baseball team than what he wants because a baseball team thinks he's worth what he wants.

''Catch-61,' the men said. All they kept saying was 'Catch-61, Catch-61. What does it mean, Catch-61? What is Catch-61?"

"Didn't they show it to you?" Arroyossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. "Didn't you even make them read it?"

"They don't have to show us Catch-61," the old agent answered. "The law says they don't have to."

"What law says they don't have to?"


In true baseball terms, it's really no less complex.  The Reds and Arroyo have had a remarkable run that has been wildly more successful than anyone I could find ever predicted, but they are both at a point where the partnership should likely end.  The Reds, while still relatively flush with money in the banana stand, have several younger, more attractive options that need to be paid, and Arroyo knows that his best chances at making some serious coin in the last years of his 30's lay elsewhere.  Both ultimately know that much of what Arroyo has provided to the Reds is currently replaceable, but both sides also stand to lose something significant by miscalculating what the other wants and expects.

Bronson Arroyo surely watched as last season's free agents began to sign during the first off season under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and he, like everyone else, surely noticed that players who had declined an extended Qualifying Offer (QO) - thereby adding a forfeited draft pick by the signing team to the cost of signing a free agent - faced a much harder uphill struggle to get as much guaranteed money on their contracts.  Surefire, big money free agents who declined QO's weren't affected, of course, but older, mid-market free agents akin to Arroyo this year felt the pinch in a big way.  It's entirely likely that the $30 million market Arroyo seeks would be decidedly decimated by an attached 1st round forfeiture, meaning his actual market with the pick attached wouldn't be much more than the $14 million he'd have a chance to sign by simply accepting the QO.  That, of course, is why he's publicly stated that he doesn't think the Reds will extend him a QO; obviously, he does not want them to.

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.

"From now on I'm thinking only of me."

Major Dusty replied indulgently with a superior smile: "But, Arroyossarian, suppose everyone felt that way."

"Then," said Arroyossarian, "I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't I?"

Read Joseph Heller's "Catch-22."  Then, read it again, and again, and again.