We’ve talked about adding another fifth starter ever since the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka two weeks ago. The argument was that the team’s first four starters in the rotation all have their own issues, and the players in competition for the fifth rotation spot may be better suited for the bullpen. Obviously we’re even further in the year than we were last time we talked about the subject, we’re just a little over a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. Players have the freedom to sign after February 14th, but when learning a new team, a new catcher, and a new pitching coach, pitchers are among the first players to show up to camp for a reason. We’ll see a lot of players scrambling for contracts over the next week, and Bronson Arroyo has already brought his asking price down to just 2 years and $22 million.
Arroyo does not throw hard and he’s not a strikeout pitcher, but he’s found a way to succeed in one of the most hitter friendly environments in baseball, Great American Ballpark. Over his 8 seasons with the Reds, Arroyo has pitched to a 4.05 ERA with a 1.268 WHIP. The right-hander has done well by successfully pitching to contact in Cincinnati, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving up home runs, as he averaged 1.3 home runs per 9 innings with the Reds. He’s not necessarily a fly ball pitcher though, and as a sinker baller, he’s shown a tendency in to split batted balls between the air and ground. His strongest attribute is his stinginess with walks, as he gave up just 1.56 BB/9 in 2012 and 1.51 BB/9 in 2013. Arroyo also maintains a relatively high left on base rate, which is abnormal considering his low strikeouts and average fly ball rates.
As a successful contact pitcher, Arroyo will routinely outperform his FIP and many other advanced pitching statistics. There are few pitchers like him, which is why we’re seeing a lot of reluctance for a guy that has been so good in one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly parks. Much like Great American Ballpark, Yankee Stadium finds itself in the same category, especially for left-handed hitters. On a short term deal and with his types of success, it’s easy to see reasons why Arroyo fits well into Yankee Stadium and the organization.
But if you take a look at his splits, there are some very scary statistics against left-handed hitters. In 2013, Arroyo allowed a .292/.327/.529 slash against 422 of these batters. The only reason he made it work was that he left them on base at an astonishing rate of 84.1%. Overall, 23 of his 32 home runs came off of left-handed hitters, and though Great American Ballpark is unkind, Yankee Stadium could be even more harsh.
With some negotiating, a team could probably bring Arroyo’s annual salary closer to $10 million, which is a brilliant bargain if he can continue to post ERA’s in the mid-3′s. But for a team with a ballpark like the Yankees, there’s a tough gamble to make for a player that continues to defy advanced data. Arroyo is on sale, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be a good deal for the Yankees.