By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

How’s that trade working out? (XI)

The Red Sox played 19 innings yesterday and never used Jason Johnson. So this seems like an odd time to challenge me on the Bronson Arroyo trade. But Anonymous is up to the task, writing, “Dan’s gotten quiet about this, but in his last 6 starts Bronson Arroyo is 1-4 with a 4.91 ERA. Why can’t we get guys like this?”

Look, we know who Arroyo is. He’s the guy who went 14-10 with the Red Sox last year, with a 4.51 ERA. He’s streaky. It’s no surprise that he’s returned to earth. But he’s also a versatile pitcher with the right makeup to pitch in Boston. If he were with the Sox now, he’d be a decent fourth starter, the best fifth starter in the league or a good middle-innings guy — someone who could help us win this year.

Bruce Allen, sick of trade critics, recently suggested that Arroyo and Johnson are actually similar pitchers. Well, we’ve seen how that’s worked out, haven’t we?

I’m thrilled that Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen are all contributing. But Arroyo-for-Wily Mo Peña was still one of those trades that wasn’t just dumb, but self-evidently dumb the moment it was made. Arroyo’s recent slump doesn’t change that.

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  1. Anonymous

    Ok, all. I’m the *good* Anon. – the one who agrees with Dan on this. Let’s just review again, before all the vitriol and hyberbole hits the fan:Dan (and I) are not predicting Arroyo is headed to Cooperstown. We are not claiming he is better than Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Josh Becket, or Jonathan Papelbon, to name a few. We are pointing out that he would likely have made a much greater contribution to the cause than Jason Johnson, Matt Clement, or David Wells have so far this season.Or Wily Mo Pena.

  2. another face at zanzibar

    Ok. We get the point. Uncle.

  3. Dana Dingle

    Alright, time to play another version of Dan’s “let’s harp on one move and ignore everything else” game. Dan, how about if the Sox decided to play Jeremy Giambi and cast aside David Ortiz instead? That was actually up for debate at one point. How would the last three years have panned out? Sure, the Arroyo deal was a bonehead trade (though, the Sox never won a division title with Arroyo, and they’ve been in first place all year without him), but they’ve had far more hits and misses, including, oh, just the first World Series title and 86 years. Which is why it is so foolish to harp on one bad deal.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Dana — If you were a regular reader, you’d know I’m a Theo fan and believe the Sox have made far more good moves than bad during the past few years. That’s what makes this move so inexplicable.

  5. Anonymous

    Maybe there is another reason why this particular example is so galling, though – Arroyo had just signed a 3-year deal with the Red Sox, giving them what his agent and many observers felt was a significant hometown discount. Maybe it would be easier to let go if not for that injustice. Mike has said loyalty in baseball is a myth. But players will be loyal to teams that treat them well, and teams that cultivate that loyalty will fare better with free agent signings than those with a reputation for stabbing people in the back.

  6. Anonymous

    “If he were with [us] now, he’d be a decent fourth starter, the best fifth starter in the league or a good middle-innings guy — someone who could help us win this year.”I bet that’s what Astros fans said when they shipped Larry Andersen out of town 16 years ago. I’m amused by all the Arroyo stuff, but the fact is that even if you don’t like the trade, it’s not Epstein’s worst move this year. I’ve got five words for you: Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    But Seanez and Tavares were both pretty good — better than pretty good — in 2004 and ’05. Picking them up made a lot of sense. It’s not Theo’s fault that they’ve been lousy. That is precisely the kind of move that I won’t criticize.

  8. Aaron Read

    Wily Mo for Arroyo seems boneheaded now…I suspect it will not seem so boneheaded next year when Trot Nixon will almost certainly be gone. Without Wily Mo, you’ve got a big hole in right field AND in the lineup. Concordantly, Wily Mo desparately needs a year in the majors to get some seasoning under his belt if he’s going to be even half as good as Nixon has been over the years.I, too, wish badly that they’d hung onto Arroyo. I liked his attitude and his skills. But under the circumstances at the time (banking on a healthy and productive Clement and Wells), I’d have at least seriously considered that trade as well.Stuff happens, though. Who’d thunk that Lowell would turn out to be such a huge member of the offense? And that Gonzalez and Cora would be so good, either? Stuff happens both ways.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Aaron — Come on. Were you really banking on a healthy and productive Clement and Wells? That’s one of the most frustrating aspects of this trade — that what’s happening with Clement and Wells was so predictable. (No, I didn’t expect Clement to have arm trouble. But a healthy Clement isn’t much better than a hurt Clement.)

  10. Anonymous

    Aaron! Setting aside Clement for the moment – Wells was never anything but the vaguest of question marks for this season. Have you forgotten his off-season knee surgery? And his chronic back problems, for which he has pushed the cortisone shots to the limit? His aging, overweight body? Or how about the fact that he requested a trade this winter, and at one point said he’d probably just walk away and retire if the Red Sox couldn’t deal him? Would it not have occurred to you that maybe a solid 4-5 starter like Arroyo would probably come in handy this season? More handy than Wily Mo Pena, who, when healthy, adds nothing but occasional bouts of power interspersed among frequent terrible at-bats? And WMP as full-time right fielder in Fenway Park next year? For. Get. It.

  11. Stealth

    Dan – Johnson was sent down today, which means he was on waivers and unavailable to pitch in the game. Otherwise he surely would have followed Seanaz (as it was, it probably would have been Kapler).Arroyo would be getting eaten alive in the AL East.

  12. joxygen

    OK Dan, I find that I agree with you most of the time and I find that even when I don’t I still appreciate the intelligence and wit that you bring to your arguments. Here, though I think you’re acting like a bully. This is not a scandalous trade. This is not a brain-dead move by a normally smooth moving Epstein. The fact is Theo made a calculated gamble that’s not as atrocious as you make it out to be. The gamble goes like this:Clement, Wells, Dinardo, Pauley & Lester: Two of these five guys are going to be decent # 4 and 5 pitchers. Maybe Palpebon was in the mix too – hard to know what the organization was thinking at that point.So what’s Arroyo really. A fairly middling insurance policy against only one of those five or six guys working out. Wells has been overweight and has had back problems his entire career. But what your argument fails to recognize is that he’s basically been good for the innings every year of his career except this one. Since 1990 (that’s 15 years) he’s pitched around 200 innings every season except one where he pitched 100 innings, (2001.) In short, he has been Mr. Innings. Clement was due for a better year, and you have Pauley, Lester and Dinardo waiting for a chance to prove themselves except for the fact that a mediocre pitcher was in their way.Arroyo is probably a great guy – but he’s not a great pitcher and so a calculated gamble brings in someone who could really be spectacular and in a position where you’re far thinner – especially next year. So, it turns out the calculated gamble goes bust. Only Lester works out. Hey, it was a gamble. That means risks. In this case, I think you overstate the risk and understate the coming reward. WMP has the chance to be awesome.

  13. Anonymous

    Dan: Rudy Saenez was awful for the Sox in 2003. He then had a career year at the age of 36 playing in a pitcher’s park [San Diego]. Not a wise signing. Julian Tavarez is a 33-year-old vagabond nutjob who has a history of meltdowns. Bringing him to a market like Boston and giving him more than a one year contract is idiotic. Shitty years from both of them was not only possible, but given their ages and histories, it was entirely predictable. At least with the Arroyo deal, the Sox got an asset in return – a young, slugging corner outfielder. In a couple years, this whole discussion may be moot when Pena is hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs a year – even if Arroyo wins 20 games this year. The same can’t be said for these two disastrous free agent signings, which will simply be filed away in the “oops” drawer along with the likes of Jack Clark, Rob Deer, and Jeremy Giambi.

  14. mike_b1

    I wasn’t going to comment on this thread, but the last response was oh-so-dramatic.I’m not going to bother going into the stats, but we’re talking about a couple of relief pitchers who have run hot and cold all year. Since you haven’t been paying attention, since Day 1 Theo et al have followed an approach that recognizes that many problems can be solved by throwing lots of players at it and seeing who works out. Need a 1B? Sign 3. Need a 3B? Sign two. Need a RP? Sign 10, 20, 30, whatever it takes. They are a dime a dozen, and the Sox have a lot of dimes.”Disastrous free agent signings?” Please.Repeat after me: The Red Sox are in FIRST PLACE!

  15. Anonymous

    Mike, check your stats. Is it all that unusual for the Red Sox to be in or only a couple games out of first place this time of year? It’s who’s in first place on the last day of the season I’m concerned about. Yes, they’re a good team, and fun to watch. But the rotation and bullpen are kind of being held together with bubble gum and rubber bands, and something could give at any moment.If you are a Red Sox fan, and I take it you are – you do not want to be thinking wild card, the way the Tigers and White Sox are going.Arroyo could have helped stabilize both the rotation and the pen. Pena isn’t going to help them at all this year. He may well hurt them, though.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Mike — Honestly, I’m not posing as Anonymous. 😉

  17. mike_b1

    It’s neat how Anon treats the Red Sox’s first-half performance as a fluke, and considers Tavarez and Seanez washouts based on a handful of bad outings, yet fails to treats Arroyo’s first half for what it was: an aberration that is already fading into his past mediocrity.Gordon Edes summed it today: the Sox pitching is better than last year.

  18. Anonymous

    Dan is correct. I am not him; he is not us.

  19. Anonymous

    Also Mike – we’re not all the same Anon.

  20. mike_b1

    That’s funny: you look the same to me.

  21. Anonymous

    Dan: Have you noticed that your hero Bronson Arroyo is Winless in July? Yep, he’s 0-3 over his last six starts, and his ERA has climbed half a run up to 2.92. He’ll be lucky if he wins five more games. The National League is finally figuring him out. Like I said at the beginning of your jihad, he’ll probably win 12-14 games finish with an ERA around 4.00

  22. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:04 — Well, in that case, I take it all back! No way do we want a guy who can win 12 to 14 games with an ERA of 4. Give us David Wells, Matt Clement and Rudy Seanez instead. BTW, did you see that Theo might be getting ready to trade Wily Mo for a pitcher? Want to bet if he gets someone as good as Arroyo?

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