Let’s take a quick break from working ourselves into a full-fledged panic attack over the Eagles and check in on the Phillies.
There was a little flicker atop the hot stove yesterday when the team agreed to terms with relief pitcher Pat Neshek on a two-year deal worth just over $16 million. The move to bring back the 37-year-old, who was the Phillies’ lone representative at the 2017 All-Star Game, stabilizes a young bullpen that has some upside, but also many question marks. While it’s not exactly the type of move that will grab headlines, or truly push the needle as the Phils work towards relevancy, the signing, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, may be a mere appetizer of what’s to come:
Phillies are considering Jake Arrieta. Not perfect match since they are a year from possible contention but many of their execs know him well from when they were with the Orioles.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2017
It’s worth noting that these types of rumors are typically floated to prominent baseball writers this time of year by agents in order to drum up interest in their clients, particularly when the agent is Scott Boras, as is the case here. Arrieta’s performance has declined over the past two years, but the 31-year-old was still productive in 2017, posting a 14-10 record with a 3.53 ERA and 163 strikeouts over 168.1 innings. Outside of Yu Darvish, Arrieta is considered to be the top starting pitcher available on the free agent market, so he won’t be had on the cheap. Just ask Boras himself, who was quoted in this ESPN piece:
“I don’t put values on anything. I just look at performance. I look at the marketplace and say, ‘How does he stack up against the top pitchers in the game, and why? I am not the purchaser. I am not the check writer. I am merely someone who talks about the performance value. I give them all the book, and the onion starts to peel. And all of a sudden there’s only a small group left who do what [Justin] Verlander, Arrieta and [Max] Scherzer do.”
Verlander, in case you’re wondering, will make $78 million over the final three seasons of a six-year, $162 million extension he signed as a 30-year-old prior to the 2013 season. Scherzer, meanwhile, signed a seven-year deal worth $210 million as a 30-year-old prior to the 2015 season.
Personally, I’m encouraged if the Phillies are expressing legitimate interest in Arrieta for the mere fact that it appears they’re on the brink of making aggressive moves that will propel the team towards contention. The move would make sense on some levels. The Phillies desperately need a quality veteran presence that they can pair with Aaron Nola to solidify the top of the rotation. And, if you want to speculate and think big, the acquisition of elite talent could also aid the team in its likely future pursuits of pending superstar free agents like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Still, I’d be surprised if this got done. Arrieta’s age and bouts of inconsistency a year ago don’t make for the best fit at this point in the Phillies’ rebuild.