Arroyo shocked by trade to Reds
By DAVID BORGES, Journal Register News Service
FORT MYERS, Fla. --- Bronson Arroyo has long said that, if he could, heíd sign a lifetime contract to remain a Red Sox.
Unfortunately for Arroyo, he couldnít. Now heís gone, and heís not happy about it.
Arroyo was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday in exchange for strapping young outfielder Wily Mo Pena. He got the call from general manager Theo Epstein late yesterday morning.
"He said something to the effect of, ĎIíve got news you probably donít want to hear,í" Arroyo recalled. "I said, ĎIím traded to the Reds, huh?í He said, ĎYup.í"
And with that, the 29-year-old righthander was thrown for a loss, even though he had heard the trade rumors ever since the start of spring training.
Reached on his cell phone yesterday evening, Arroyo seemed flustered ("My brainís scrambled, man. Iím just driving down interstate"), upset, hurt and genuinely surprised that he had been traded away.
"Yeah, it came as a shock to me. I mean, why wouldnít it?"
Arroyo signed a three-year, $11.25 million extension with the Sox on Jan. 19 against the advice of his agent, Gregg Clifton, who warned him that signing at such a discounted price would make him attractive to small-market teams.
Arroyo signed anyway, believing he had a tacit agreement with Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington, the teamís co-general managers at the time, that he would remain a Red Sox for at least the foreseeable future.
"My exact words were, ĎIím not signing this deal to be in Tampa Bay in two weeks,í" Arroyo said. "Their exact words were, ĎWe donít foresee you being in any type of deals in the near future. There are no deals involving you at all.í Whether they meant the near future was tomorrow, I donít know."
"After the conversations I had with Jed and Ben," he continued, "did I think Iíd be traded six or seven weeks later? No. Not that I didnít think I could be traded possibly at the trading deadline if I wasnít throwing well, but I didnít think Iíd be traded in spring training."
Epstein returned as Sox GM after a 2 Ĺ-month hiatus the same night Arroyo agreed to his deal. He hadnít been involved with the negotiations, but said the rumor of a "gentlemenís agreement" between Arroyo and the Sox "simply wasnít the case."
"Jed Hoyer finished the contract with the Red Sox and told Bronson at the time that signing such a contract came with no guarantees about being traded. He assured Bronson at the time that there were no active trade discussions (involving) Bronson, and that certainly was true. But that was several months ago, and things did change as teams began to inquire about Bronson this spring."
Arroyo didnít think anything would have been different had Epstein been involved with the negotiations over the winter.
"He is involved right now," the pitcher pointed out. "If he didnít want it to go down, it wouldnít have gone down. Heís the GM."
Arroyo had been pegged to start the season in the bullpen for the pitching-rich Sox, but he should be near the top of the Redsí starting rotation. Not that that provides much consolation for the tall righthander.
"No place is going to attract me," he said. "I donít personally enjoy pitching in the National League, because of all the things that come along with the National League. I wanted to pitch with a team I knew had a chance to be in the World Series every year. Not to say I couldnít with the Cincinnati Reds, but obviously itís probably more of an uphill battle. I just bought an apartment in Boston, it felt like my home. Itís going to be different getting to know everybody, going back to square one."
Even more disconcerting for Reds fans: "Hey, Iíll go out and pitch my three years. Iíve got three years and I can go where I want."
Still, itís not the Reds so much that bothers him but the fact that heís leaving Boston.
"I wanted to stay in a Red Sox uniform. Period. That was it, that was the only reason I signed that deal. Hey, business is business. They did what they had to do, and I did what I had to do. You can only be a stand-up guy to a certain point. Thereís so many factors involved. Itís not just me, itís Theo, the owners, a lot of stuff involved around it. Itís strictly a business decision. I know Theo liked me as a person, but that doesnít make it any easier."
Arroyo didnít make it over to City of Palms Park yesterday, instead packing up his residence. Heíll be at the park today to pick up his belongings and figures to be up at the Redsí spring training site in Sarasota, a little over an hour up the road, to play catch this afternoon. He said heís slated to pitch on Saturday when the Reds host Minnesota, meaning he could be in line to face the Sox the following Thursday, March 30, at City of Palms.
In his three years in the Sox organization, Arroyo emerged from waiver-wire pick-up from Pittsburgh to author of a perfect game with the PawSox to a solid and versatile starting pitcher to a literal rock star.
Along with racking up 24 wins and more quality starts (36) than any other Red Sox pitcher over the past two seasons, Arroyo had become famous for his guitar and vocal skills. He even released an album of cover songs last July entitled ĎCovering the Bases,í on which Epstein was a special guest guitarist.
"From a personal standpoint, I really admire Bronson," Epstein said. "I have gotten to know him really well, and that made it difficult. From an organizational standpoint, we owe a lot to Bronson ..I think itís safe to say we would not have won the (2004) World Series without him. Heís handled himself with a huge amount of class on and off the field throughout his time as a Red Sox."
"That said," Epstein continued, "if I allowed my personal feelings about a player or recognized that a player would prefer to stay in Boston, if I let that affect our judgment, I wouldnít be doing my job. It was tough for the organization to see a good, loyal soldier go."