On Monday the Phillies signing of Jake Arrieta to a 3 year $75 million contract was made official and Tuesday the team introduced the 2015 NL CY Young Award Winner and 2016 World Series Champion to the media in Clearwater.
There has been no bigger critic of this move than me. I’ve cited that at 32 Arrieta’s numbers have all gone backwards since that amazing breakout 2015 season. Last season he pitched 168 innings in 30 starts, averaging less than 6 innings per start, and yet despite that the Phillies will fork over $30 million dollars to have Arrieta pitch every fourth day during the 2018 season. Let’s also not forget that just when the Phillies could be really good, Arrieta can opt-out of the contract after the 2019 season and test the market again, a move he would almost certainly make if he pitches well this year or next.
Taking away what Arrieta may or may not be able to do on the field, the Phillies are giving Arrieta $55 million for the next two seasons hoping that young starters like Nola, Eickhoff, Velasquez, Pivetta, Lively, etc learn from the veteran pitcher, much like what Jamie Moyer did for Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and J.A Happ during the Phillies recent glory years of 2007-2011 when they won 5 straight NL East titles, two consecutive pennants and the 2008 World Series. The Phillies aren’t a playoff team this year, but a run at .500 isn’t out of the question for a team that won 66 games a year ago.
Arrieta’s presence also means that Nola doesn’t have to matchup against the other teams ace, and the trickle down effect has Eickhoff pitching third and Velasquez fourth. Even bigger yet is that by signing what many believe to be the best available free agent starter on the market, the Phillies have sent a message to future free agents that they are ready to win, and aren’t afraid to spend the money to bring in the talent to do so. The Mets did the same thing in the winter of 2004, signing Pedro Martinez fresh off a World Series win with the Red Sox and a season before the Mets would contend. Pedro didn’t exactly pitch as well for the Mets as he did for Boston, but the message was sent.
I don’t believe Arrieta is that talent, but he may not have to be if his signing paves the way for future top-tier talent to land in Philadelphia.