Could the Phillies End Up Signing Jake Arrieta?
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With just 27 days until pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, a large number of MLB free agents remain unsigned. In fact, there are enough major league free agents that four could be added to every team and some would still be left over. The Phillies have stated a desire to add a starting pitcher. Could the top-shelf Jake Arrieta be it?
The Phillies have a connection with Arrieta through their front office. Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, Arrieta never figured things out until he and Pedro Stroup were traded to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman. When Arrieta was drafted, Andy MacPhail was Orioles president and Matt Klentak was in the Orioles front office as director of baseball operations.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia also noted that outfielder Nick Williams has been working out with Arrieta this offseason in Austin, Texas and hopes to try to lure Arrieta to Philadelphia.
But simply liking Arrieta as a player and as a person does not make him a fit for the Phillies. What might make him a fit? A lack of a long-term deal that Arrieta wants. Teams may be wary that the soon-to-be 32 year-old will not be effective at the end of a contract.
The Phillies want to add a pitcher. The Phillies have money. If Arrieta cannot get a five or six-year deal as he reportedly is interested in, he may have to settle for a three-year deal. If that is the case, the Phillies might be interested and be willing to pay a high average annual value compared to other teams.
With many of their players still not yet eligible for salary arbitration, the Phillies payroll will remain low the next few seasons. If the Phillies gave Arrieta three years and $80 million, it would not interrupt their long-term plans.
Arrieta at his age 32, age 33, and age 34 seasons comes with some risk. As we saw with both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, their careers did not go further than age 34. The Phillies might be willing to take the risk that 34 year-old Jake Arrieta could be effective still. But age 35 and 36? Probably not.
The other names out there include Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Darvish has not been linked to the Phillies thus far and could be in a situation similar to Arrieta. Lynn and Cobb also have been looking for longer-term deals and are two years younger than Arrieta. They remain an option for the Phillies, too, but Arrieta has a chance to lead a rotation instead of slotting into the middle of one, like Lynn and Cobb do.
If the Phillies do not go for these names, then they could be looking at the likes of Jeremy Hellickson being the pitcher they add. The trade market has not really heated up for the Phillies, even though they were said to be looking at the likes of Chris Archer.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have some money left to spend, the Chicago Cubs have some money to spend, but neither has to go all-in on any of these names. The Phillies, who can spend bigger on on a shorter-term deal, may be just sitting back and waiting to see who falls into their lap. It could be Arrieta.