This should be pretty straightforward: a top of the rotation option is available, you have the money to spend, and a need in that position. You go for it, right?
This would normally be the part where I pull the rug out from under you and tell you why it’s not a good idea, but I’m actually on board with the idea of the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta. He is an instant upgrade at the top of the pitching rotation. Just think, your rotation would go from Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and three of Vince Velasquez, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta, or Zach Eflin to a definitive Arrieta, Nola, Eickhoff with some talented options for your fourth and fifth pitchers. This would be beneficial for the guys like Lively, Thompson, or Pivetta have their moments but would be better off pitching farther back in the rotation. Eickhoff is a good pitcher but he is better suited for the pitching matchups from the three spot than the two. Obviously the real gem here is having a one-two punch of Arrieta and Nola. When they’re at their best it could be one of the better top duos in baseball. Not to mention learning from someone like Arrieta could do wonders for a young guy like Nola, who is already a stud.
Aside from the obvious need for top-tier starting pitching, the front office has a connection with Arrieta. Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak, the president and general manager, respectively, were pulling the strings in Baltimore when the Orioles drafted Arrieta in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. They liked him then, what’s not to like now about a World Series champion, one-time All-Star, veteran pitcher with two no-hitters under his belt, who won the Cy Young in 2015.
Sure, Arrieta has been on a decline since winning the Cy Young in 2015, but the Phillies aren’t going to need him to be completely lights out. They have a young, potent offense, a decent bullpen, and no expectations to win the World Series in the immediate future. His presence in the locker room and plus-arm at the top of the rotation are all the Phillies need. Even if he allows three runs a game, the bullpen is strong enough to keep it there. Winning a ball game 4-3 is a lot easier than winning one 7-6. I see no reason why the Phils should pass on him.
Except there is one thing I can see holding this up. Money.
Arrieta is going to command a lot of money in this market. For example, Yu Darvish just signed a six-year, $126 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, coincidentally Arrieta’s old team. While Darvish is younger than Arrieta, they are both top pitchers in their own right. Money shouldn’t be an issue for the Phillies, aside from that rather large contract they gave Carlos Santana (three years, $60 million) they have very little money on the books compared to other teams around the league. I, for one, wouldn’t be mad if they signed Arrieta to a similar contract to Darvish. The only downside to a hefty six-year deal is that Arrieta will be 32 in March. With that in mind it would be best to front load the contract which would be better for the Phillies anyway. Get the big money out of the way fast so that by the time they are contending they can have the money free to do what they want. It would also make moving on from Arrieta easier when the time comes.
Pitchers and catchers report on February 14th and Arrieta still doesn’t have a home. The Phillies should act soon and get the man to Clearwater, he could be a difference maker in the city of Brotherly love this baseball season. I’m not saying signing Jake Arrieta will guarantee the Phillies a spot in the wildcard (it’s tough to say the worst team in baseball last season would be a lock for the playoffs) but with the improved offense, improved bullpen, and an upgraded starting rotation I think the Phillies could make a run at the wildcard. Like I said before, it’s a lot easier to win a game 3-2 or 4-3 than 7-6 or 8-7 with someone like Arrieta who can pitch late into games and a better bullpen the Phillies should be able to convert more of those one-run games that were the bane of the Phillies existence the past few season. Converting those one-run games would lead to a better record. With a better record we could be talking about a playoff push. With a playoff push we could be talking about the Phils being buyers at the trade deadline for the first time since 2012, but that’s a story for June.
Klentak should give Scott Boras a call and start negotiating a deal to bring Arrieta to Philly. It would essentially finish the rebuild and shouldn’t hamper the future.