What was the reason it took Jake Arrieta so long to sign a free agent contract this spring? If you look at some of the baseball “experts” they will point to a few sabermetric reasons such as decreased fastball velocity (every pitcher deals with this throughout their career, and Arrietta is 32), and durability (Arrieta has made at least 30 starts in each of his last three seasons).
The real reason he was waiting so long for a contract is his expectations of what he was going to get. In past years, a pitcher of his caliber (Cy Young Award, 2 no-hitters, .222 average against, playoff and World Series experience), would have received a contract in excess of 5 years and north of $100 million. His agent, Scott Boras, was asking 7 years, $125-$150 million.
That was never going to happen, not in this year where youth and payroll flexibility are prized, and where teams have started to learn that contracts based on prior accomplishment are not as valuable as paying for potential production.
After the signing of Carlos Santana (3 years, $60 million), and Arrieta, (3 years, $75 million), the Phillies payroll stands at $75,378,000, which is 27th in the major leagues (Boston, by comparison, leads MLB in payroll at $230 million). The roster looks fairly well set for opening day, meaning that the Phillies of the next several years looks young with plenty of payroll space available to lock up those players that are the future, and trading for/signing free agents that can complete the rebuild. Also included in the two, three-year deals is no salary commitment past 2020 – there are no 10-year, $100+ million deals that will hamper roster flexibility as the contracts of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, and Chase Utley did.
Jake Arrieta’s deal is contingent on passing a physical, and reporting to Phillies camp in Clearwater. It isn’t clear if Arrieta has been working out or throwing during his free agent hiatus, so he may not be ready for Opening Day.
With Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta at the top of the Phillies rotation, not to mention the veteran presence Jake brings to the staff, the Phils could have one of the best 1-2 starters in the NL.
Picture credit: Jake Arrieta, Twitter (@JArrieta34)
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Baseball writer for SportsArePhilly.com. You can follow me on Twitter @jasphil