Which Jake Arrieta are the Phillies going to get for $25 million a year?

jtown
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs looks on from the dugout against the New York Mets during game two of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Citi Field on October 18, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs looks on from the dugout against the New York Mets during game two of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Citi Field on October 18, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Phillies are giving Jake Arrieta $75 million over three years with the potential for two more years. Will they get a good return on their investment?

Jake Arrieta is set to make $75 million over the next three years for the Phillies, starting with $30 million this season. It is the highest average annual value for a contract Philadelphia has given out since Ryan Howard’s albatross of a deal.

Will Arrieta’s deal wind up like Howard’s or actually be worth the money? That ultimately depends on the Arrieta we get.

When the Orioles traded Arrieta to the Cubs in 2013, he completely changed the type of pitcher he was. He went back to the cross-fire delivery Baltimore trained him out of and it started working for him. His ERA dropped from 7.23 in Baltimore to 3.66 with Chicago after the trade.

More from Phillies News

2014 was even better for Arrieta as he had a 2.53 ERA and 2.26 fielding-independent pitching in 25 starts. His 5.0 wins above replacement that year was almost double his career WAR total before that season. The Cubs went 73-89 that year, but Arrieta was one of the few bright spots.

Arrieta and the Cubs burst onto the scene in 2015 as they made it all the way to the National League Championship Series a year after finishing fifth in the NL Central.

Arrieta had a career season, racking up 7.3 fWAR, 236 strikeouts, 48 walks, and a 1.77 ERA in 33 starts. He won the Cy Young that year to cap off an impressive year.

2016 wasn’t as great of a year – it’s almost impossible to repeat such a season – but he still was effective with a 3.10 ERA and 3.8 fWAR.

However, Arrieta started to fall off the wagon last year. He posted the highest WHIP, home-run rate, opposing batting average, and fielding-independent pitching since joining the Cubs. He led the league in wild pitches. Arrieta walked five batters in each of his playoff starts.

One thing that could’ve played a huge part in Arrieta’s struggles last year was his aforementioned crossfire delivery. Arrieta’s Fangraphs profile analyzes a huge downside in using that delivery:

"But with this ability comes a major downside: command. Throwing heavily across body creates a much smaller margin for error when timing your release point, preventing those needing precise locations from consistent performance. We’ve seen Arrieta locked in and feeling his mechanics through full seasons and then some, but 2016 and 2017 showcased a pitcher struggling to get his feel back. The pitch to take the biggest hit was his slider, returning a -8.2 pVal just two years removed from a 24.2 mark. Arrieta has reduced its usage dramatically to make up for his slider’s woes, though it’s possible his slider was just the first domino to fall."

Arrieta was able to keep his walk rate low in 2015 when he won the Cy Young at just 5.5 percent. However, it climbed up to 9.6 percent in 2016 and 8.1 percent the first half of 2017. Arrieta also kept a low home run to fly ball ratio in 2015 at 7.8 percent, but it rose to 11.1 percent in 2016 and 14.0 percent last year. Arrieta walked more batters and gave up more home runs, obviously leading to worse numbers overall.

More from That Balls Outta Here

When Arrieta had 3.8 fWAR in 2016, he was worth $30.4 million according to Fangraphs. Last year at 2.4 fWAR, he was worth $19.4 million. Both were surpluses on the deals Arrieta had at the time, but now he will make $30 million, $25 million, and $20 million the next three years if no opt-outs or extensions are triggered. That means Arrieta would have to be as valuable as he was in 2016 to be worth the money Philadelphia gave him for this year.

Whether or not Arrieta can return to his 2014-16 form is a huge question mark. A significant red flag is the fact that his sinker velocity has decreased from 95.21 mph in 2015 to 92.48 mph last year.

Meanwhile, its usage increased from 43.2 percent to 60.8 percent. If he continues to rely on his sinker this heavily and its velocity continues to decrease, things will only get worse.

Next: Are the Phillies now deadline buyers?

If the Phillies are going to get their money’s worth for Arrieta, he will have to perform significantly better than he did in 2017. He potentially could, but the signs aren’t pointing the right way.

facebooktwitterreddit