Arroyo gets three-year deal
Right-hander's loyalty to Boston main factor in new contract
BOSTON -- In a winter in which the Red Sox have spent plenty of time trying to accommodate the trade requests of Manny Ramirez and David Wells, it had to be a pleasure for the club to see just how much Bronson Arroyo wanted to remain in Boston.
In large part because of Arroyo's strong desire to stay in Boston, the Sox signed the slender right-hander to a new three-year contract on Thursday.
By agreeing to a deal that will pay him between $11 million and $12 million, Arroyo bid adieu to his remaining three years of arbitration eligibility, and the new pact will take him right to free agency.
In a unique twist, Arroyo's agent, Gregg Clifton, advised his client against taking what he felt was a discounted contract.
"I think [Clifton] felt like I was leaving close to maybe $4 million on the table," Arroyo said. "I think [Clifton] felt like three years, $15 million is probably would I would achieve if I went through the arbitration process all three years."
But Arroyo stood up for himself and insisted on taking an offer that gave him more security.
"I agreed to this contract with strong advice from [Clifton] not to sign it, simply for the reason that I want to play in this town," said Arroyo, who turns 29 next month. "I love being a Red Sox. I wouldn't have signed a deal [like this] in any other place. The reason I took a discount was because I love playing here and I want to stay here my whole career."
In Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Wells, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, Jonathan Papelbon and Arroyo, the Red Sox have seven viable starting pitchers for their five-man rotation.
Wells, another Clifton client, will likely be traded before the season starts.
Arroyo hopes that his new deal will help prevent him from being the odd man out.
At the same time, his agents warned him that the new deal could make him more attractive to a smaller market team in a potential trade. Arroyo was willing to take the risk, hoping the ultimate reward will be a lifetime of home games at Fenway Park.
"They didn't give me any guarantees, but [co-general managers] Jed [Hoyer] and Ben [Cherington] both stated to me that there were no deals on the table for me right now and they felt pretty strongly that I wouldn't be traded anywhere any time in the near future," Arroyo said. "Not that they could guarantee me any security for the lifetime of the contract, but at no time in the near future did they see me going anywhere."
Arroyo hopes that he can make the same progress in the next three years that he made in the previous three. Remember, the Red Sox claimed Arroyo off waivers from the Pirates prior to the 2003 season, and that low-risk move has paid significant dividends.
"I'm very happy and pleased that I ended up in the place that I did coming from Pittsburgh," Arroyo said. "Looking back on my time in Pittsburgh, I'm definitely glad that I'm here in Boston. In my heart, I always knew that this day would come, where I would be a solid Major League pitcher and signing a multi-year deal. I'm definitely pleased where I'm at right now."
Arroyo broke into the Boston rotation during the club's World Series championship season of 2004, posting a 10-9 record and a 4.03 ERA. He cemented his spot in 2005, notching a staff-high 20 quality starts while winning a career-high 14 games.
While some players shy away from the spotlight of Boston, Arroyo has thrived in that environment, even moonlighting as a musician.
"Everyone has their own take on the city, how rabid the fans are," Arroyo said. "I personally love playing here. I think anytime you can step on a field and have 35,000 people who are so into the game that if you don't bring your A game, you're going to get booed, it's fun for me. It's exciting.
"Every time you come to the ballpark, you know you'd better bring your best or people are going to criticize you for it. I also love the city. I love that it's not too big of a town, like New York. It's kind of a little big town. I also enjoy that fans know their baseball here and they take it serious and they want a winner."
Arroyo has the flexibility to work as a starter or a reliever, but the former option looks to be far likelier in 2006, given all the setup arms the Red Sox have assembled in the bullpen.
The ultimate team player, Arroyo said he'd understand if he winds up pitching in relief, even though it is his strong desire to go every fifth day.
"I've said in the past I'd do anything to help the team win, and I still feel that way," Arroyo said. "I think I've proven myself as a starter, but if they think that I'm the No. 6 guy again and I need to pitch out of the bullpen, then that's what I'll do."
Arroyo knows that the 2006 Red Sox will be a different bunch, minus the memorable personalities of Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar. But he seems at peace with that, even though Millar and Damon were two of his closest friends on the team.
"Any time you have a group of guys that you enjoy playing with and you love playing with, you hate to see those guys go," Arroyo said. "Having Kevin Millar leave and Johnny Damon and these guys, it's definitely disappointing, but it doesn't change the fact that playing in Fenway Park is a joy every single day.
"I feel like the team we run out there is always going to be competitive," he continued. "I feel like our starting pitching staff is going to be pretty darn good no matter who we run out there, and we still have a pretty good lineup to put up some runs. I'm not too worried about it; I think we're going to be just fine."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.