Thursday, February 08, 2007

Reds Show Arroyo and Harang the Money

Former Red Sox pitcher, and key member of the 2004 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS, Bronson Arroyo was given a two-year, $25 million deal the day after the Reds gave a four-year, $36.5 million to fellow starter Aaron Harang. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

CINCINNATI - In their biggest spending splurge since they brought Ken Griffey Jr. home, the Cincinnati Reds have locked up their top two starting pitchers for the next four years. It's a sign of how priorities have changed.

Right-hander Bronson Arroyo got a two-year extension Thursday that will pay him an additional $25 million and keep him under contract through at least 2010. There's a team option for the following season.

The agreement came two days after top starter Aaron Harang avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $36.5 million, four-year deal that also includes a club option for 2011.

"I honestly didn't think they were going to even talk to me about a contract this offseason," said Arroyo, who had two years left on his current deal. "But they were serious."

"Most baseball people agree that with Bronson and Aaron Harang, the top of our rotation is as strong as any in baseball," owner Bob Castellini said. The two contracts amounted to the team's biggest spending splurge since 2000, when previous owner Carl Lindner gave Griffey a $116.5 million, nine-year deal to play for his hometown team. The downside of that deal was that it forced the team to scrimp on pitching to stay within its budget.

In the following years, the Reds also gave big contracts to two other position players: shortstop Barry Larkin (three years, $27 million) and first baseman Sean Casey (three years, $20.4 million).

"When you look at all the Braves' winning years, you look at their rotation," general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "Your starting pitching is so important to the success of your team. It's nice to have these two guys signed for the period of time we do now."

Harang, 28, became only the eighth NL pitcher since 1960 to lead the league in wins (16) and strikeouts (216). He started 35 games, pitched 234 1-3 innings and had a 3.76 earned run average. Arroyo, 29, was nearly his mirror image. He went 14-11, also started 35 games, pitched a league-high 240 2-3 innings and had a 3.29 ERA.

The Reds got Arroyo from Boston for outfielder Wily Mo Pena during spring training last year. Arroyo initially missed the big city, where he pitched in a World Series and launched his music career. "Last year in the beginning of the season, I was still watching a lot of Sox games and I was kind of still caught up in the middle emotionally about being traded," Arroyo said. "After being here a year and going through what we went through last year with having a chance to make the playoffs, I'm a Red through and through now."

The Reds finished 80-82 — their sixth straight losing season — but were in contention until the final weeks in the NL Central. Arroyo was one of 36 players acquired by Krivsky after he got the job last February. Arroyo enjoyed the city and developed a local following for his musical career. The singer/guitarist has played several concerts in the area, the first of which was sponsored by the Reds' community fund.

"I think the team here definitely has embraced that part of me a little more than Boston did," he said. "I think Boston discouraged it from the fact that they thought it was a little bit of a distraction to me."

'Scuse me? Boston embraced you just fine. You were probably the fifth most popular player behind Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling during you stay with the Sox. Not only that, but I don't recall the Sox discouraging you from playing your music at all. In fact, I recall just the opposite. In fact, you were plugged as a main attraction at Peter Gammons's annual jam, where you joined him, GM Theo Epstein, and teammates (and guitarists) Lenny DiNardo and Tim Wakefield on stage. Likewise, you used those guys, plus Kevin Youkilis and Johnny Damon on your debut album of cover songs, "Rounding the Bases". What gives?

Arroyo gets base salaries of $4,125,000 this year and $3.95 million in 2008, figures set under the old contract. The extension includes a $2.5 million signing bonus that will be paid next year. Arroyo will get salaries of $9.5 million in 2009 and $11 million in 2010. There is a club option at $11 million for 2011 with a $2 million buyout. The option can escalate to $13 million, based on innings. As part of the agreement, Arroyo dropped provisions in his existing contract that could have increased his 2008 income by $650,000.

Not a bad deal for a guy that the Sox stole from the Pirates before the 2003 season as a minor-league free agent. Arroyo is still the only man in International League history to have pitched a perfect game, which he did as a member of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox before he was eventually called up to the big club. Sox fans will always remember the corn-rows, the funny leg kick and frisbee-like breaking pitches, and A-Rod slapping the ball from your glove in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Come to think of it, Arroyo was also the starter in the Sox-Yankees game in which A-Rod and Jason Varitek slugged it out after A-Rod was hit by a curve that didn't break, so Bronson was no stranger to controversy in his two-plus seasons with the Sox. Well done Bronson. Stay healthy, effective and earn that money!

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