After months of speculation, the Philadelphia Phillies turned their significant interest in starting pitcher Jake Arrieta into a three-year contract on Sunday. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported the agreement and USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported the length of the deal.
Arrieta's offseason certainly didn't go as he might have expected when everything started. Reports indicated he wanted a five or six-year contract to make him one of the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, instead he ends up with a three-year deal. But while the length of contract may not be where he wanted, the deal gives Arrieta the kind of money he wanted and the opportunity to help push the Phillies back into the spotlight.
The 31-year-old, right-handed pitcher turned in another fine season on the mound for the Chicago Cubs last season, even if it didn't match his level of performance in the previous three seasons. In 2017, Arrieta recorded a 3.53 ERA AND 8.71 K/9 across 168 1/3 innings pitched. He remained an effective pitcher on the mound who could eat up innings and rarely give up free base runners to the opponent, demonstrated by his 7.8 walk percentage last season.
Yet there are some reasons to be slightly concerned over Arrieta's performance and potential production. For one, last season opponents hit him significantly harder than before with nearly a five-point hump in hard-hit contact rate from 25.2 percent in 2016 to 29.4 percent in 2017. Opponents also drove the ball in the air more against Arrieta last season with a near seven-point jump in his fly ball rate to a 34.4 percent FB% last season. Last season also marked the first time since 2013 that Arrieta registered a swinging-strike rate below 10 percent (8.7 percent in '17).
It presents concerns for the coming season, especially given Arrieta's 4.16 FIP and 4.15 SIERA last season for Chicago. Now 32, Philadelphia will hope the rise in fly balls and greater hard contact allowed don't continue at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, which allowed the highest home runs per game (1.41) in the majors last season.
Even with the potential decline, Arrieta is an immense upgrade over the options Philadelphia entered the weekend with. While it may take him a little more time to be ready and his first regular season start with the Phillies could be pushed back further than normal, this deal works out perfectly for both sides. Arrieta gets $75 million over three seasons and the Phillies add one more piece for a potential bounceback season in which they could be a dark horse contender for a wild card spot.
Fantasy Projection: 3.79 ERA, 163 Ks, 175 IP, 15 wins