It’s been six painful years with a dark Citizens Bank Park in October. With the latest free agency move, the 2018 Phillies signal the end of a long, arduous process of rebuilding; perhaps they are the team that brings playoff baseball back to a city still reeling from its first Super Bowl celebration.
They improved to a popular postseason sleeper pick on Sunday with the addition of starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, who agreed to a front-loaded three-year, $75 million deal with the club. An official announcement is pending a completed physical.
The three-year offer is said more simply than is structured. On paper, it’s a three year deal with an average annual value of $25 million. However, Arrieta will earn $30 million this year and $25 million in 2019 before a potential opt-out… but, there’s more.
If the Phillies guarantee two more years (2021 and 2022) to Arrieta, the opt-out is voided. If he reaches all incentives and the five year deal he held out for, the contract could, in effect, be worth $135 million for five years.
For what it’s worth, the contract is great news for the Phillies looking to remove the “rebuilding” label off their club.
Highly coveted this off-season, Arrieta was the biggest name remaining on the market after holding out into spring training to pick his club. The Phillies were connected with Arrieta and agent Scott Boras since discussions began earlier this winter.
He seemed to favor the Phils over playoff-ready Washington and Chicago (Cubs). With Arrieta joining new catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana, the Phillies’ free agency splash hit a year earlier than expected, putting the Phillies back on the destination map. Come next year, with Arrieta solidified, the Phillies can focus on prying superstar Manny Machado to Philadelphia.
General Manager Matt Klentak fulfilled a promise of spending money, shelling out millions on veterans to join with the talented young bloods that will make up the 25-man roster in just about three weeks’ time. With Arrieta’s signing, he helped patch what was sorely bleeding: the starting rotation.
A one-two punch of Arrieta and Aaron Nola sounds enormously better than Nola and a patchwork of Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, or Clay Buchholz.
Arrieta brings to the Phillies the ace they desired to help ease the pressure off a thriving Nola. At 32, he’s regressed from his peak form, but still has the stuff to rack up the strikeouts with a low-enough ERA to be worth his cost.
Arrieta’s career 3.57 ERA and .222 batting average against don’t dictate how well he’s done for the Cubs, where he rejuvenated after a trade from Baltimore. He has the rapport of a championship-caliber pitcher. Staying in the National League provides him comfort, especially when matching up at the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
While in Chicago, he tossed two no-hitters, won the 2015 NL Cy Young award, and was pivotal in forcing Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland. To top it all off, Arrieta’s proven he can get it done in the big games with a 5-3 record, 3.08 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in postseason play.
He brings a heralded veteran leadership to the clubhouse and is someone that can- and should- be trusted to take the ball every fifth day for the Phils behind Opening Day starter Nola.
Set with the bullpen enhancements of Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, and Hector Neris as the team’s closer, the team is the most formidable and complete in recent memory. It’s about how well they perform on the field and how quickly the youngsters can reach their full potential.
Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler’s free agent attention now turns to 2019 when they are expected to become major players for franchise-changing talents. For now, it’s off to finish out spring training and set sights on Opening Day 2018 on March 29.