Forum Spin Doctor
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."
For the first time since they won the World Series in 1990, the Reds have a pair of starters worth such long-term deals and an owner willing to spend the money. Harang and Arroyo will make at least $71 million over the next four years.
"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."
When the Reds approached him about an extension a couple of weeks ago and he saw their initial offer, he was receptive to working it out.
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.