The Phillies are poised to take advantage of a slow-moving free agent market, as they're reportedly agreed to terms with right-hander Jake Arrieta on a multiyear contract. Bob Nightengale pegs the deal at $75 million over three years.
Arrieta, who recently turned 32, has declined a bit since his Cy Young season of 2015, but he has still been an excellent starting pitcher. Over the past two seasons, Arrieta has made 61 starts and pitched to a 3.30 ERA (129 ERA+) while striking out roughly a batter per inning. As well, he hasn't been on the disabled list since early in the 2014 season. His fastball velocity was down overall last season, but part of that was an intentional effort to pitch to contact more often..
He'll certainly help the Phillies' rotation. At the front, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vincent Velasquez have upside, but the relative youth and the injury concerns throughout make a known quantity like Arrieta a good fit. Last season, the Phillies ranked 10th in the 15-team NL in rotation ERA and 12th in rotation WAR. So Arrieta, as you would expect, will be substantial upgrade over the status quo.
The Phillies earlier this offseason added Carlos Santana to the fold. As well, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter are new to the bullpen. Add Arrieta to the list of signings, take into account the young talent base in Philly plus the relatively non-competitive landscape of the NL (at least insofar as the two wild-card berths are concerned), and the Phillies start to look like potential contenders. Favorites? No. If things break right, however, they could be in the mix for a spot in the NL Wild Card Game.
Arrieta's deal, assuming it gets finalized, keeps him in Philadelphia through at least the 2020 season. That means he'll be part of the existing core when the Phillies no doubt make a huge payroll investment during next year's offseason. Given their market size, competitive window, and relative lack of long-term salary commitments, the Phillies are expected to be big spenders when next year's legendary free-agent class drops. Consider Arrieta to be a big part of that near- to mid-term plan, even if took until March for it to happen.