After striking out on Masahiro Tanaka and failing to trade for Jeff Samardzija, the Arizona Diamondbacks have signed Bronson Arroyo to a two-year contract worth $23.5 million guaranteed. The deal also contains a club option for 2016 for $11 million. Arroyo isn't the top-end starter the Diamondbacks were looking for, and you could make the argument that he'll end up being the club's seventh-best starting pitcher when 2014 is done.
Arroyo, who turns 37 this month, has spent the last eight years with the Reds. He's crossed the 200 inning mark in eight of his last nine seasons (settling in at 199 in the ninth season), but aside from that, is the definition of mediocre. Arroyo has posted an ERA under 3.50 just once during the full seasons of his career, and that came way back in 2006, his debut year in Cincinnati.
Arroyo's strikeout rate has continually fallen far below the league average, and only five qualified starters had a lower strikeout percentage than Arroyo's 15.1%. To be fair, only C.C. Sabathia and Mark Buehrle have thrown more innings than Arroyo since 2004, though each of those pitchers has a lower ERA and accrued a higher fWAR over the last decade than Arizona's new starter.
The elephant in the room is Arroyo's obscene home run rate. He's allowed at least 26 homers in each of the last eight years, which is partially a product of the Great American Ballpark – but his road home run rate is nearly as high as his home run rate at home, so let's not immediate pencil him in for massive improvements outside of Cincinnati. Arroyo's abilities as a fly ball pitcher will be improved by the presence of Gold Glover Gerardo Parra and Cody Ross in Arizona's outfield, and considering his struggles against left-handers, having that pair in center and right field could be a godsend for him.
However, Arroyo's signing doesn't make much sense to me for this reason – Arizona is loaded with young starting pitching, even after trading Tyler Skaggs to the Angels as part of the Mark Trumbo trade. Arroyo is taking a spot in the rotation, at least for this season, away from Randall Delgado or top prospect Archie Bradley, Bradley might need a little more seasoning in the minors, but Delgado, acquired from the Braves in the Justin Upton trade, appears to be ticketed for AAA. He's spent time there in the Atlanta and Arizona organizations in each of the last three years, and I'm not really sure what a fourth stint will do for him. Delgado turns 24 on Sunday, and I don't think it's a stretch at all to think he could outperform Arroyo in 2014, given 30 starts in the majors. A spot will open up in 2015 when Brandon McCarthy hits the free agent market, and trades and injuries can always happen to thin some of the depth, but Arroyo really just seems like an overpaid, back-end placeholder for the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks are now locked in to the largest payroll in club history, with over $104 million guaranteed in 2014. And after all that, are they one of the five best teams in the National League? I don't think they are, and you could make an argument that they're not even one of the two best teams in the NL West. I really thing Arroyo is a marginal upgrade at best for Arizona, and that the salary he'll make in each of the next two seasons isn't a great investment – but aside from Parra, at least the Diamondbacks don't have any key young players hitting free agency in the next year or two.