With much uncertainty still remaining in the Cardinals’ 2018 pitching rotation, the front office may look to sign free agent Jake Arrieta.
The Cardinals would be in a fantastic position on Opening Day if they managed to land a solid starting pitcher to fortify the current rotation. Jake Arrieta is one of the biggest names on the market this offseason, and he may seem like the solution to the Cardinals’ current pitching issues.
However, as good as Arrieta’s last few season were, he comes with some major downsides that require serious attention. In my opinion, these negatives absolutely outweigh the potential (emphasis on potential) positives, and the Cardinals should steer as far away from signing him to the contract he’ll command as possible.
First and foremost, Jake Arrieta is a Scott Boras client, and that does not bode well for his next employer’s pocketbooks. Boras is notorious for landing huge contracts, and you can bet he’ll manage the same this offseason for a big name like Arrieta. He has already valued another client – JD Martinez – at a cool $200 million, so in time we’ll see the questionable chunk of change he demands for Jake Arrieta.
More power to Boras and his clients, of course. If I was in a position to make millions on the payroll of billionaires I’d see just how far I could push the boundaries too.
However, in the offseason following the trade of a pitcher the Cardinals were paying entirely too much money – Mike Leake – it would be prudent for the Cards to think very carefully about committing a ton of cash to another pitcher liable to underperform.
In 2015, Jake Arrieta made a name for himself by having one of the greatest second halves in MLB history. He posted a .75 ERA and gave up just 9 earned runs in 107.1 innings pitched. Arrieta was absolutely dominant, filthy, unhittable – every word you can imagine to describe a phenomenal pitcher – and he pitched himself right into a National League Cy Young Award.
Unfortunately, this is the level of performance that Arrieta will get paid for this offseason, and I think it’s safe to say that he will never perform at that level again. In 2016, Arrieta’s ERA and BB/9 spiked to 3.10 and 3.5 (from 1.9 in 2015), and his ERA rose again in 2017 to 3.53 with a 4.16 FIP that could indicate further regression next season.
Now, I don’t mean to insinuate in any way that Arrieta is a bad pitcher. He is definitively an above average pitcher and would be a solid addition talent-wise, but there’s no way you can justify paying the man the exorbitant amount of money he’ll command for his performance three seasons ago. Arrieta’s 2015 second half was unquestionably an outlier, and there is no reason to dish out so much money when there are cheaper options – both internally and on the free agent market – for comparable production.
Poor Timing for Arrieta
Perhaps if the Cardinals’ situation was different this offseason, Jake Arrieta would be a better fit. If the Cards were truly desperate for starting pitching, maybe it would be worth it to bite the bullet and pay Arrieta the Boras-backed contract.
However, the Cardinals really have bigger needs than starting pitching, and leaving that money open to sign or trade for an impact bat will be very beneficial. If the Cards wanted to go the route of signing an expensive, big name pitcher they could go after the more proven Yu Darvish. Or, if they simply wanted a cheap, acceptable solution they could go after Lance Lynn or test the waters with Luke Weaver (who looks essentially MLB ready), Jack Flaherty, and/or the returning Alex Reyes.
All-in-all, the Cardinals simply too many options and needs elsewhere on the roster to justify paying Jake Arrieta the type of money required to land him this offseason.
Photo captured by: USA Today Sports – Jim Young
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference