Opinion: Jake Arrieta is the best option for the Phillies

Photo by Mateocubs

Under normal circumstances, pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training would pretty much signal the end of the offseason’s big free-agent signings. This year, however, has been marked by many notable names going unsigned, which has made the hot stove remarkably cold compared to previous offseasons.

One advantage of this situation is that it gives teams like the Phillies a chance to swoop in and still make a big deal before the season officially begins. The Phils may be prepared to go forward with the players that are currently on their roster, but one name that could really provide the team with a sorely needed upgrade is Jake Arrieta.

The 2015 Cy Young winner is arguably the biggest name still left on the free-agent market and easily the top starting pitcher available. While he hasn’t quite been able to fully repeat his fantastic 2015 season, he’s still been one of the top performing pitchers in the game since going to the Chicago Cubs in 2013. During his four-and-a-half seasons in Chicago, he has pitched to a 2.73 ERA, plus 793 strikeouts and two no-hitters. Simply put, Arrieta reinvented himself from a relatively forgettable pitcher in Baltimore to a star in Chicago.

Arrieta was a huge part of the team that brought the Cubs its first World Series victory in over 100 years, but after the team’s recent signing of Yu Darvish, it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be returning to the North Side of Chicago. That’s where the Phillies come in.

There is a fair amount of potential when it comes to starters like Ben Lively and Jake Thompson, but the Phillies’ starting rotation is largely unproven and is especially shaky when Aaron Nola is removed from the equation. Maybe some of the other young starters could prove themselves in 2018 like Nola has, but it would do the team a lot of good to get somebody proven that can still help them in the long run.

At first glance, Arrieta’s declining numbers over the past two years may be a cause for concern, but there’s more to those numbers than what’s on the surface. In 2016, it was only natural that he came a bit back down to earth after posting 22 wins and a 1.76 ERA in his Cy Young season. Last year, he rebounded in the second half, with a 2.28 ERA after the All-Star Game, but his efforts were cut short by a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a few weeks in September. One note of caution: Arrieta saw a reduced ground ball rate and increased home run rate in 2017, but that’s slightly elevated thanks to 10 bad innings during his injury-plagued September. So if Arrieta were to become a Phillie, it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to replicate his 2015 season, but he’s proven that he is still be a reliable, all-star caliber pitcher that would be a great fit at the top of the Phils’ rotation.

Money wouldn’t even be a big concern for the Phillies, since they have plenty of space on their payroll for the foreseeable future. Carlos Santana is the only player on the roster set to make more than $10 million a year in any of the next three seasons, so the Phils could conceivably sign Arrieta to a long-term deal and still have money on the books to sign another superstar like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, assuming they both hit the open market.

At the end of the day, a Phillies rotation with Arrieta is simply set up to succeed at a much higher level than what the team has now. Nola is currently facing the prospect of potentially having to put the entire rotation on his back, but with a veteran who can still pitch like a superstar joining him at the top, it would take a lot of unnecessary pressure off of him. Nola is still young and shouldn’t have to worry about carrying the starters. It would be far better to his development to instead just focus on being part of potentially one of the best one-two pitching duos in baseball.

Of course, the question of how to entice Arrieta into joining the team with the third-worst record in baseball last year still remains (beyond having Nick Williams continue to talk up the Phillies in their regular workouts). If the Phils are going to sign Arrieta, they need to sell him on the fact that he’ll want to be around when the team gets competitive again, but that they need his help to get there. With all the young talent the Phils have both at the major league level and in the farm system, it’s not that hard to picture them being back in the playoff hunt after this upcoming season, and if Matt Klentak can convince Arrieta that the (hopefully) last stages of the rebuilding process are solid, we could be looking at a beautiful match.

With this unprecedented lull in free agency, it’s hard to tell when the dominoes will finally start to fall and the rest of the big names will finally sign. There are a number of other solid starters available that could help to bolster the Phils’ rotation, but given their needs and the amount of money they have available, it’s hard to find a better fit for this team than Jake Arrieta. Now make it happen, Phillies.



  1. Vernon Dozier

    February 16, 2018 at 10:34 am

    On a three year deal, sure…I’d take his ages 32-34 seasons. However, I’d want no part of a starting pitcher in their ages 35+ seasons. He’s not going to sign for three years though, and I’m not a fan of having dead money on the books (whether or not the team “can afford it”). Some team will give him five years, and regret those last two.

  2. Mitchell Nathanson

    February 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    A club doesn’t have to talk up a player to convince him to sign with them. All they have to do is offer him the most money. That’s it. The MLBPA puts a lot of pressure on players to take the top bid. Very few players buck the union. If the Phils want Arietta, all they have to do is make him a better offer than anybody else. And he’s theirs. Now, whether they want a starting pitcher in his 30s is another story…

  3. Ken Bland

    February 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    To say Jake is the best option as a headline is awfully incomplete. Cost (bucks + length) is critical.

    I’ll essentially stand by my feeling since last summer that Jake was a bad sign based on little of his pitching dashboard suggesting he had multiple (3-4) good years left, and that was the assumed length.

    But a lot has happened since that summer moon. Jake is among those frozen out by whatever’s happenin’ in MLB, it’s a virtual certainty he’s ex of Chitown with Yu signed on for 6 years, and it at least seems like neither the Cards or Brew Crew, amongst the more likely to sign him don’t appear too hurried. If press reports hold water, and that is an IF, the Cards in particular, not exactly swimming on pitching depth, view Jake’s starts as depriving at least 1 hurler of development opportunity. Since minds can change, that’s merely a for the moment deterrent, if it holds water anyway.

    Frankly, since Yu inked with the Cubs, I’ve been wondering anxiously if Jake might become a Phillie. For at least 1, probably 2 years, he’d be a real asset. And just because he doesn’t look like a long term asset of Jakian proportions it is speculation. But for sure, if he falls short of the 5-6 years I assume Boras seeks, he would figure to be careful not to go mid-term on length. A pillow deal, which off the top of my head might be worth 25 million to the Phils enables him free agency again in a year when he’s still not exactly old, even though a year older. Length will be that much harder to get a year from now.

    Jake would figure to push the Phils that much closer to my anticipation of being the Phils being contenders for one of the top spots among those potential playoff teams a notch below the world class types (NYY, LAD, ChiCubs, Stros). It’s on paper, and merely prediction, so you never know, but if that reasonable guess is to play out, in part because of the addition of Jake, it’d be pretty cool.

  4. Ken Bland

    February 17, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Time for some ex-Phillie “news” that will probably alter anyone’s plans until bedtime whether you read this on an even numbered date, or an odd one.

    To many, Chase Utley was, is, and always will be a god in this town. Check out the number of WFC tats sold by Del Val tat shops if you want verification. His last 2 years with the Phils were basically meh, and he never exactly lit it up with LA, unless you count the game in Philly where he clubbed 2 dingers and got people pissed at those of us that loved that Chase got a standing O.

    Always a big Chase fan, I must admit I chuckled when I scoped todays LA Times story on Chase reupping with Dodger blue. Made me think back to when he missed a lot of playing time here around the turn of the decade, and a small segment of the population were either pissed or disappointed with what was going on with his knee, and straight answers seemed few and far between.

    Here’s the line that made me chuckle.

    Early on in the off season, I let the Dodgers know I’d like to continue and LA would be my choice. Probably not the best negotiating strategy but at this point in my career, I need to be honest and truthful with them.”

    Ahem. NOW he needs to be honest and truthful? Does that mean he didn’t need to be when he had millions at stake with remaining contract time with the Phils? Oh well. I’ve slept since then anyway, and it would take a ton to forget or minimize all the great things he did as a Phillie. But, man, taking that last sentence as a single entity, I couldn’t help but recall how unthrilled a lot of people were back in the day when straight answers on Chase were so hard to get. Sometimes strange things bring a smile and a chuckle.

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