Phillies Reportedly Sign Jake Arrieta

According to all of the writers on the internet, the Phillies are signing right handed pitcher Jake Arrieta for 3 years and $75 million. At times this move felt needed or inevitable for the Phillies, but they constantly stuck to their terms on making any deal for a free agent pitcher. Up until the middle of today, that seemed like it would cost them a chance at signing any of the top starting pitchers. Whether they needed to make a pitching move or not is a bit up for debate, but after signing Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter, and Pat Neshek the Phillies put themselves in a place where they have a foot into some playoff races. Arrieta is a clear upgrade on the Phillies projected #5 starter (which looked like a Ben Lively and Zach Eflin competition), and doesn’t make the Phillies a Wild Card favorite, but it does make them a contender.

The contract as reported is incredibly team friendly. Arrieta gets the most money per year of any free agent this year, but he also only gets 3 years. Three years is how long Carlos Santana is on the books, and it is how long it will be until the Phillies have to pay the first year of arbitration to Crawford, Hoskins, Alfaro, and Williams. I am not going to argue that $25M is not a substantial sum of money, but it is really of no consequence to the Phillies who project to be incredibly cheap outside of free agents for a long time. The money should not affect the Phillies’ ability to make any moves next summer. The Phillies also give up their 3rd round pick (they gave up their 2nd in the Santana deal) and another $500,000 off of their international pool. The pool penalty will hurt slightly as it does decrease the max they can trade for, but ultimately they can work around that penalty. The pick hurts in a vacuum, but given the contract, it is a small price to pay.

As for the player, Arrieta is no longer the guy who won the Cy Young in 2015. He is 2 years older and his fastball isn’t the same, and his command isn’t the same. Additionally, Arrieta saw his velocity drop 2 mph to open the 2017 season, and was only able to see a slight rebound to a 1 mph loss by the second half, before than missing much of the last month of the year to injury. The consequence has been a lower strikeout rate, higher home run rate, and a decrease in his ability to generate ground balls. Arrieta put up a 3.53 ERA last season, and it is likely that he ends up in the range around 3.50 this year. Given the current run scoring environment, that is a solid #3 starter, but there is a chance that he rebounds enough to be a #2 starter. Either way, despite his salary, Arrieta is the Phillies #2 starting pitcher this year behind Aaron Nola.

That transitions into how the Phillies’ rotation now looks after this move. Before today, the Phillies had locked in Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Nick Pivetta into the top 4 spots of the rotation. This had left a competition between Zach Eflin and Ben Lively for the #5 spot, with Jake Thompson trying to make noise on the outside. Whether he is ready for opening day or not, Arrieta will settle in behind Nola in terms of talent, which leaves the #5 competition on the outside in its entirety. The only question becomes whether this makes Nick Pivetta’s spot vulnerable to Lively or Eflin. Given everything the Phillies have said, it is unlikely Pivetta get’s bumped, but we also have yet to see Arrieta pitch this year. This would then leave AA and AAA populated with the following starting pitchers at minimum.

That list doesn’t include Drew Hutchison, Jacob Waguespack, Ranger Suarez, Edgar Garcia, and Brandon Leibrandt all of who could factor into those rotations at some point. For now those players are all blocked. That isn’t really a problem if we go back to the Phillies major league rotation. Both Eickhoff and Velasquez are coming off years with injuries, and all three are coming off years where they just weren’t very good. It is incredibly improbable that all three are both healthy and good in 2018. If any of them experience any prolonged periods of struggle, the Phillies could turn to AAA to fill that hole. If by chance those three are good and healthy, the Phillies are going to be great shape this season. In general, there is no such thing as having too much pitching, it is likely this all works out in the long run.

By signing Arrieta, the Phillies finally have a team that makes sense. With the additions of Santana, Arrieta, Hunter, and Neshek the Phillies have some veterans to add to Aaron Nola, Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, and Odubel Herrera to give them a solid core of consistent performance. The Phillies have surrounded that consistency with a very young roster with upside. They are not counting on Rhys Hoskins performing over a full year like he did in his quick preview, but they see a huge upgrade on last year’s left fielders. Nick Williams was fine last year, but has room to add when it comes to his approach and defense. J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro are not going to be asked for much, but they are both top level prospects who could be very impactful. Then you have the rest of the rotation, where asking Eickhoff to be your #3 instead of your #2 gives him more of a chance to provide value, the same with asking Velasquez and Pivetta to man the back of the rotation instead of having to carry the middle of it.

All of this does not make the Phillies a playoff team. PECOTA has them as a 78 win team before this move and Lively as a about a 0 win player. A 2 win upgrade would bring the Phillies up to 80 wins. The other NL wild card contenders are at 87, 85, 84, 83, and 81 which does leave the Phillies on the outside. With nothing expected from catcher, third base, and much of the rotation there is a chance for upside built in. The Phillies aren’t a great team, but they should be pretty good next year.

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8 comments

  1. Kram209

    March 11, 2018 07:00 PM

    Thompson pitches his way back to a starter? Elniery and Cole Irvin in the also-rans but those dudes are leftys. Heady times indeed.

    • Matt Winkelman

      March 12, 2018 10:44 AM

      I actually forgot Cole Irvin, I am adding him to the list. They have too many starters

  2. Ryan

    March 11, 2018 09:57 PM

    I hope that they only let Pivetta/VV go two times through the lineup at most–using the really good bullpen to make up for it. It’s very exciting.

    • Chris S

      March 12, 2018 11:01 AM

      I think Pivetta probably won’t cut it as a starter, but he would be a really nice bullpen piece on a contending team.

  3. awh

    March 11, 2018 10:31 PM

    Good post, Matt. Excellent analysis of the tickle down/fallout to the rest of the pitching staff.

    I have to wonder if there might not be some conversions to the BP down the road for some of the guys you mentioned.

    Thoughts?

  4. Chris S

    March 12, 2018 10:29 AM

    The Phillies are going to be a fun team to watch this year and it is good to have that feeling after 5 years of seeing the Phillies trot out a team that was unwatchable for the most part.

  5. Gil

    March 12, 2018 04:00 PM

    Good analysis – thanks!

    While it seems likely that a few of these starters will become middle and late inning relievers, some could also be traded to meet other organizational needs, for example some international money and perhaps some corner infielder prospect types.

  6. Wawa Mike

    March 13, 2018 11:09 AM

    This team is starting to really shape up. I like Kapler (he reminds me of Pat Croce), and his willingness to try anything to give his team an edge. I’ve spent my winter defending Klentak, but I had my doubts at times. Sorry to see Tommy Joseph go, but that’s the nature of the game. Best of luck to him.

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