Bronson Arroyo agrees to deal with D-backs

Bronson Arroyo was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA last year for Cincinnati.

Frank Victores

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks agreed to terms with productive innings-eater Bronson Arroyo on Friday afternoon, a few hours after general manager Kevin Towers said that about his only remaining business was to add pitching depth.

Arroyo, a right-hander who turns 37 on Feb. 24, has averaged 13 victories and 211 innings in his last nine seasons, all of which were spent in hitters’ parks in Boston and Cincinnati. He was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA in 32 starts covering 202 innings last year for Cincinnati.

He is expected to slot into the third or fourth spot in the rotation, and the trickle-down effect likely means that Randall Delgado opens the season in the bullpen and top prospect Archie Bradley opens the year in the minor leagues to get a little more seasoning. This was likely the plan all along for Bradley, but he was expected to have at least an outside shot at winning a spot in the rotation this spring.

Arroyo is to earn $9.5 million in 2014 and 2015 with an $11 million option for 2016 that includes a $4.5 million buyout. It’s comparable to the two-year $23 million that San Francisco gave to 38-year-old right-hander Tim Hudson. As one baseball executive said, sometimes a third-year option is necessary to secure the player for the first two years.

Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Wade Miley entered spring training as the anticipated top four starters, though not necessarily in that order. 

Arroyo has eight seasons with double-digit win totals. He is prone to giving up the home run, averaging one every every 7 ½ innings, but part of that is because he is typically around the plate. He averaged 1.5 walks per nine innings in 2013 and 1.6 in 2012.

'Go' time

Other than Arroyo’s track record, another selling point was the fact that his signing was not tied to draft-pick compensation, as are remaining free agent right-handers Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. A team will lose a No. 1 draft pick if it signs Santana or Jimenez, and it seemed to be a price the D-backs did not want to pay.

"First-round picks are pretty significant," Towers said. "It would take a special player for us to give up a first-round pick."

The D-backs returned their attention to the free-agent market after a high-dollar pursuit failing to land Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, who signed with the New York Yankees. Without Tanaka and with the loss of left-handers Tyler Skaggs (to the Los Angeles Angels) and David Holmberg (to the Chicago White Sox) in separate three-team trades that landed Mark Trumbo from the Angels and sent Heath Bell to Tampa Bay, the D-backs find themselves somewhat thin at the higher levels of the minors.

Arroyo’s addition provides another buffer against the injuries that hurt the rotation last season, when McCarthy and Cahill missed about 16 weeks combined with shoulder and hip woes.

The D-backs tested the trade market early in the offseason, kicking the tires on David Price, Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija among others, but could not find a match, Towers said. The Tanaka sweepstakes was the next option, as he was deemed the best free agent on the market.

"I would say there were a couple of times we thought we were close (to a trade), and they would add something else," Towers said. "How close is close? When it came to the starting pitching, there were only a few guys out there, and I thought the price was too steep. You know you have to give up something good, but I think it was probably the number of guys rather than a particular guy. It was just too much."

The free-agent path was preferable anyway, Towers said.

"I think in the perfect world I’d rather have the free agents and keep the depth in your system," he said." Any time you are making trades, especially if you are using major league talent,  it involves having to make dents in your organization, in your prospects."

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