Fantasy Baseball Reaction: Jake Arrieta signing with the Phillies won't reverse decline

The last big free agent domino fell Sunday when Jake Arrieta agreed to a three-year, $75 -million deal with the Phillies.

It's a big investment for a team that clearly believes it's on the verge of turning the corner in its rebuild, having already signed Carlos Santana to a three-year deal this offseason.

But is it so good for Arrieta? From where I sit, it's just another risk factor piled onto a growing mound of them.

Perhaps you caught Arrieta's name in my Busts 2.0 column. Part of my concern is that he's signing so late he'll either be delayed for the start of the year or have to hurry his preparations and risk injury. But that's almost a side note in light of everything else.

His strikeout rate and velocity were both down last year, which would be forgivable if he still took on an ace workload in an era when so few pitchers do. But instead, manager Joe Maddon employed Arrieta like the lesser pitcher he had become. He threw 29 fewer innings than in 2016 even though he made just one fewer start. His 168 1/3 innings ranked down there with Jose Urena and Michael Wacha. Shoot, teammate John Lackey had more.

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Jake Arrieta PHI • SP • 49
2017 season

Maybe the Phillies will ask him to pitch deeper, but then there's still the diminished stuff. What saved Arrieta from miserable numbers last year was a 2.26 ERA over his final 14 starts, and it's worth noting that his ground-ball rate increased during that time. But if there were more ground balls, his BABIP probably should have gone up during that stretch, not drop an obviously fortunate .235.

And his ground-ball rate still wasn't where it was the previous two years. What made Arrieta an ace wasn't just the strikeouts, which we've already established were down last year. It was also his ability to keep the ball in the park. With hitters suddenly able to elevate the ball against him, his home run rate nearly doubled last year, which is especially concerning given the venue he has chosen to call home.

Wrigley Field gets a hitter-friendly reputation because of those days when the wind is blowing straight out, but it rates as fairly neutral over the long haul. But Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies play, is a bandbox. It was a distant first in terms of home run friendliness last year and consistently ranks among the most homer-friendly venues.

If we buy that 2017 was a product of diminished skills and the new baseline for Arrieta, then putting him in that environment will only amplify the problem. Pile on the delayed start, and I wouldn't want to invest in the 32-year-old unless it's at a major discount.

Seeing as he's the 24th starting pitcher off the board on average, according to FantasyPros, I'm not holding my breath.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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