The Orioles were in the race for free-agent starter Bronson Arroyo, one of their top offseason targets, until the very end, but ultimately saw the right-hander agree to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $23.5 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Arroyo will make $9.5 million in each of the next two seasons, and Arizona has an $11 million club option for 2016 or can buy him out for $4.5 million, ESPN reported.
Arroyo selected the Diamondbacks over the Orioles, according to an industry source who added that the Orioles' final offer was “competitive.” Ultimately, Arroyo wanted to stay in the National League, the source said.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ unsuccessful pursuit of Arroyo means executive vice president Dan Duquette will have to look elsewhere in his continuing search to upgrade the club’s starting rotation.
It also places greater emphasis on the club landing A.J. Burnett or Suk-min Yoon, free agents in whom the club has shown interest. Right-handers Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are also available, but both are tied to draft pick compensation and likely would require commitments of three or more years.
Duquette told fans at FanFest last Saturday that the Orioles were going to spend money beyond the club’s current projected $83 million payroll this offseason and that he’s hoping to sign at least one additional free-agent pitcher, with the capability to reach the $100 million in total payroll.
At this point, that could be a challenge.
Arroyo, who turns 37 later this month, might have been the best fit for the club. A durable starter — Arroyo has made at least 32 starts and recorded 199 innings or more in each of his past nine big league seasons — he would have provided the Orioles a much-needed experienced starter who consistently has gone deep into games.
Arroyo, who was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA in 32 starts with the Cincinnati Reds last year, initially was seeking a three-year deal, but he seemed to soften his stance in recent weeks. Even though he settled for a two-year deal Friday, he will receive at least $4.5 million in guaranteed money in the third year, when he will be 39, a factor that could have impacted contract negotiations.
The Orioles' offseason strategy of waiting out the free-agent market and hoping to pick up some value signings hasn’t necessarily come to fruition. On Thursday, free-agent closer Fernando Rodney — also an Orioles target once a deal with closer Grant Balfour fell through because of concerns over his physical — signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.
Barring an upgrade, the Orioles will go into spring training with a projected payroll of $83 million. About $11 million of that is going to the starting rotation. The club is projected to spend approximately $14.4 million on the bullpen.
By comparison, the Orioles' entire projected starting rotation — Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and any combination of a fifth starter from Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton or Steve Johnson — is set to make less money than former Orioles starter Scott Feldman, who will earn $12 million this year in the first year of a three-year, $30 million deal with the Houston Astros.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun