3:37pm: The Phillies and Arrieta “are moving close to a deal,” Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets.
1:24pm: Free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta’s lengthy stay on the open market is likely to end “in the next couple of days,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. There are still “several teams” vying for Arrieta, according to Nightengale, who adds that the Phillies look like the favorites to land the 32-year-old.
Signing Arrieta would be the second major splash of free agency for the Phillies, who picked up first baseman Carlos Santana on a three-year, $60MM guarantee over the winter. Philadelphia was reportedly “having dialogue” with Arrieta back in late February, though team brass has insisted in recent months that the Phillies aren’t keen on doling out a long-term contract at this juncture. As part of a typical market, that would probably hurt the Phillies’ chances of reeling in a top-caliber starter like Arrieta, but free agency has been anything but normal in recent months. Evidence of that lies in the fact that Arrieta is still in limbo four-plus months since he became available, despite an excellent run with the Cubs from 2014-17.
At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR predicted a four-year, $100MM pact for Arrieta. It’s possible that will prove to be generous, though, as two of the other best starters in this winter’s class – Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn – signed for significantly less than expected, while both Arrieta and Alex Cobb are still without teams. In Darvish’s case, although he didn’t reach the projected $150MM guarantee, he still received a six-year, $126MM commitment to replace Arrieta in Chicago. Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, has tried to convince anyone who’ll listen that his client warrants a far richer contract than Darvish’s, but it looks highly unlikely at this point that he’ll get his way.
Regardless of how much money signing Arrieta might cost the Phillies, the onetime Cy Young winner’s history indicates he’d give them a second front-end starter to join budding ace Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ projected rotation is otherwise a mostly unproven group, so it’s debatable whether they’d even jump into wild-card contention in 2018 with Arrieta, though FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards recently argued that they’re not far off in a league with no apparent playoff shoo-ins aside from the powerhouse Dodgers-Cubs-Nationals trio.
While the Phillies are currently upstarts who have posted six straight non-playoff seasons, including five consecutive sub-.500 years, it’s clear they’re gearing up for a return to relevance in the near future. Further, the big-market club has flexed its financial muscle oftentimes in the past and could very easily afford an Arrieta signing now, with Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource currently projecting an Opening Day payroll of roughly $65MM. That would be approximately $35MM than last year’s figure and the franchise’s lowest since it fielded a $58MM team in 2002.
It’s worth noting that Arrieta wouldn’t just cost the Phillies money. Because he rejected the Cubs’ qualifying offer at the start of the offseason, the Phillies (or anyone else) would have to surrender draft compensation and international bonus pool money ($500K in Philly’s case) to sign him. The Phillies already gave up their second-highest pick in 2018 when they signed Santana, though, so they’d only have to part with their third choice (No. 79) for Arrieta.