Though spring training started last week, one marquee starting pitcher and two very solid options remain free agents in Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. We've heard very little in the way of serious discussions when it comes to Arrieta and any possible suitors, but perhaps that is changing now.
That hardly sounds serious just yet, but hey, it's something. Back when the offseason began, word was Arrieta was seeking over $200 million, but that proverbial ship has long since sailed. The baseline in this market appears to be Yu Darvish's five-year deal with the Cubs worth $126 million. Maybe Arrieta beats that, but if he does, it won't be by much.
The Phillies make a lot of sense here, too. They aren't even to $70 million in estimated payroll for this coming season and they have large-market wherewithal. They likely have big plans for next offseason when the free agent class is loaded, but adding around $25 million per year to the ledger doesn't come close to keeping them out of bidding for a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type deal.
Arrieta's fit atop the rotation would be very good, too. The Phillies have some talented arms in Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez. Arrieta would give them a former Cy Young winner with nine career postseason starts and a World Series ring to help with those relatively inexperienced pitchers. He'd be the leader of the rotation in more ways than one.
The Phillies look ready to emerge from their rebuild here in the next year or two, so it's not like Arrieta would be giving up on winning if he chose this route.
Now, Arrieta is unlikely to return to 2015 form, but he was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA (123 ERA+) and 163 strikeouts in 168 1/3 innings last season. That's frontline quality. Also, Arrieta had a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts in July and August before a leg injury during his first start in September. He worked his way back to health during September and then allowed only one earned run in 10 2/3 postseason innings.
The odds are Arrieta doesn't sign for at least a few more weeks, but keep an eye on the Phillies. They are likely the team that makes the most sense both financially and in the fit with the ballclub.