It’s finally time for Jake Arrieta to get a taste of free agency; where might he wind up for 2018 and beyond?
Right-hander Jake Arrieta was a lost puppy when he landed with the Chicago Cubs in the middle of the 2013 season. He never meshed well with the pitching coaches and front office in Baltimore, and the Orioles dumped him for Scott Feldman at the deadline. The rest, as they say, is history. Arrieta’s mechanics were harnessed by the Cubs, and he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past four years.
Since establishing himself for good in the big leagues at the age of 28, Arrieta is 64-29 with a 2.67 ERA. He has thrown two no-hitters, won the NL Cy Young thanks to an epic second half in 2015, made an All-Star team and won two games in the 2016 World Series. Arrieta has had to wait for his big payday, but it is finally here.
At the age of 31, Arrieta is a bit older than most GMs would hope for in an elite starting pitcher hitting free agency for the first time. However, he has never had serious arm issues and comes with less wear and tear than the average eight-year veteran.
Arrieta is coming off his worst year with the Cubs, and command was an issue for him in 2017. He went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and walked 2.9 per nine while allowing nearly as many home runs as he had in the previous two years combined. It all stems from fastball command for Arrieta. He did have it working in the second half, posting a 6-3 record with a 2.28 ERA in 12 starts before a leg injury landed him on the shelf in early September.
In Arrieta, teams will be getting a workhorse starter who has already proven he can handle the pressure of the playoffs and World Series. On his best days, he is unhittable. Expecting him to duplicate his 0.75 ERA over 15 starts in the second half of 2015 is unfair, but he will be a solid number-two starter with the potential to pitch like a number one for weeks at a time when he’s firing on all cylinders.
Every team can use a pitcher like that, but few have the budget to be able to meet Arrieta’s likely nine-figure asking price. These five teams, however, have the need and the cash to get a deal done.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Offense would appear to be the bigger concern for the Toronto Blue Jays front office to address this offseason, but there aren’t many slam-dunk options available at their positions of need. The Jays should look further down the list of free agents for cheap power options to help replace Jose Bautista. If Josh Donaldson and Devon Travis are able to stay healthy for an entire season in 2018, the Jays can contend without major additions to the lineup.
Toronto has built one of the best rotations in baseball and has two young, budding aces in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. The back of their rotation lacked consistency in 2017 with Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ hampered by injuries.
Sanchez missed almost all of 2017 with blister issues, but should be back to help anchor the rotation in 2018. He and Stroman would stand to benefit from the addition of a veteran leader like Arrieta who can lead them. Remember, Stroman loved working with David Price during his run with the team in 2015. The Jays probably aren’t Arrieta’s first choice, but they have the cash and the need for a veteran ace at the top of the rotation.