SARASOTA, Fla. — The Phillies waited out the starting-pitcher market all winter and came out winners on Sunday when they landed former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.
The deal, according to a source, is worth $75 million over three years and is pending a physical. It was first reported by NBC Sports Philadelphia. The contract is four years shorter than the deal Arrieta hoped to score when the offseason began. The right-hander's demands dropped as spring training rolled on and he still was without a team. The Phillies, less concerned about the contract's cost than the length, pounced once his asking price lowered.
Arrieta, who turned 32 earlier this month, had a 3.53 ERA last season in 30 starts with the Cubs. He has made at least 30 starts in each of the last three seasons. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 when he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA in 33 starts. The Phillies needed a starter for their unproven rotation and Arrieta was the best on the market. He will join a rotation with Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta.
Arrieta might not be ready for the start of the season, as he has missed the chance to pitch in the first three weeks of Grapefruit League games. The Phillies will also have to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. The team will forfeit its third-round pick in June and will have $500,000 less to spend on signing international free agents as a result of the deal. The Phillies already forfeited their second-round pick when they signed first baseman Carlos Santana.
Philadelphia will represent a reunion for Arrieta. General manager Matt Klentak, team president Andy MacPhail, and director of player development Joe Jordan drafted Arrieta when they were with Baltimore but had left the team before the Orioles traded him to the Cubs in July 2013. Phillies pitching coach Rick Kranitz was Arrieta's first major-league pitching coach.
Arrieta does not come without concerns. His velocity has dipped and his ERA has risen in each of the past two seasons since he threw 229 innings in his Cy Young season. Those innings seem to have taken a toll and that is why the Phillies were adamant on not exceeding a three-year contract. The commitment is so short that it carries little risk even if Arrieta has a sharp decline.
If Arrieta meets expectations, his arrival could be the piece that pushes the Phillies into playoff contention. They have spent $169 million on free agents. No other team was that aggressive. They bolstered their bullpen and added Santana to a lineup full of potential. As unproven as the bottom of the rotation is, Arrieta and Nola are a solid start. A wild card is not out of the question just one season after losing 96 games.
The Phillies have not signed a starting pitcher to a multi-year deal since Cliff Lee before the 2011 season. Their rotation has been plugged the last few seasons with fillers like Henderson Alvarez, Jeremy Hellickson, and Clay Buchholz. Klentak's front office exerted patience, waiting for the rebuilding process to reach the stage where adding a significant starting pitcher was warranted. Sunday proved to be that.