Jake Arrieta Joins Phillies Club Marching Towards Relevance

In a maneuver already utilized too often by clubs this offseason, the Phillies have selected a weekend night — a time when right-thinking people everywhere have already filled their glasses with some of the unmixed Falernian — to announce a deal of some note. In this particular case, what Philadelphia has done is to sign free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta.

Bob Nightengale was among the first with the terms of the deal:

Jay Jaffe will address the agreement in greater detail soon. For the moment, however, it makes sense to consider the implications of this transaction on two fronts — in the context both of (a) the Phillies’ rotation and (b) this winter’s very strange free-agent market.

First, the Phillies. Here, we recognize one of the great benefits of acquiring a frontline starter — namely, that he replaces not another frontline starter, but whichever pitcher has been designated to occupy the very last spot in the rotation. Our depth-chart projections call for Arrieta to produce something just shy of three wins in 2018. How does that compare to whomever he’s displacing?

By way of reference, here were our projections for the Philadelphia rotation before the addition of Arrieta:

Phillies Rotation, Pre-Arrieta
Aaron Nola 177 3.58 3.46 4.3
Nick Pivetta 157 4.54 4.45 2.1
Vince Velasquez 122 4.50 4.41 1.7
Jerad Eickhoff 157 4.74 4.74 1.6
Mark Leiter 93 4.83 4.83 0.8
Ben Lively 110 5.15 5.17 0.6
Adam Morgan 28 4.53 4.59 0.3
Zach Eflin 46 5.01 4.98 0.3
Ricardo Pinto 9 5.44 5.46 0.0
Drew Anderson 9 5.33 5.31 0.0
Jose Taveras 9 5.54 5.62 0.0
Enyel De Los Santos 9 5.18 5.23 0.0
Jake Thompson 9 5.05 5.17 0.0
Total 936 4.55 4.50 11.9

The rotation spots of Eickhoff, Nola, Pivetta, and Velasquez are all probably safe. In this case, Arrieta is probably replacing some combination of Leiter and Lively. The immediate benefit to the Phils, in that context, appears to be about two wins for 2018. The secondary benefit is that, if and when a Phillies starter is unable to make an appearance, his spot will be assigned to Mark Leiter and not someone residing even closer to replacement level.

So that’s the signing from Philadelphia’s side. What about Arrieta’s?

At the end of February, Craig Edwards made a noteworthy observation — namely, that free agents who receive the largest projected contracts in our annual crowdsourcing exercise are actually the most likely to exceed their crowdsourced estimates.

Consider this table from Edwards’ piece:

Crowdsourcing Projection Accuracy: 2014-2017
Crowd ($/M) Actual ($/M) Difference %
Above $80 M 2408.5 2595.3 7.8%
Between $40 M and $80 M 1770.0 1675.0 -5.3%
Between $10 M and $40 M 2137.5 1723.6 -19.3%
Up to $10 M 182.0 232.5 27.7%

Players who have been projected to receive $80 million or more have actually signed worth about 8% more than the crowd anticipated. Players forecast for lower amounts have actually received less. Edwards points out that, despite this strange offseason, the top free agents were still doing quite well.

Consider the free-agent signings of $80 million or more at the time of his piece:

Crowdsource Projection Accuracy: 2018
Name Date Signed Crowd Actual Difference
Eric Hosmer 2/19/2018 $95 $144 51.6%
Yu Darvish 2/13/2018 $125 $126 0.8%
J.D. Martinez 2/19/2018 $110 $110 0.0%
Total $330 $380 15.2%

While neither Darvish nor Martinez hit quite the 8% mark, both basically nailed their crowdsourced projections. And overall, including the Hosmer deal, the top free agents were actually outperforming previous seasons.

Since Edwards’ post, however, both Mike Moustakas and (now) Jake Arrieta have signed. The results for the $80-plus million demographic are a bit less impressive:

Crowdsource Projection Accuracy: 2018 (Updated)
Name Date Signed Crowd Actual Difference
Eric Hosmer 2/19/2018 $95 $144 51.6%
Yu Darvish 2/13/2018 $125 $126 0.8%
J.D. Martinez 2/19/2018 $110 $110 0.0%
Jake Arrieta 3/11/2018 $110 $75 -31.8%
Mike Moustakas 3/8/2018 $85 $7 -91.8%
Total $525 $462 -12.0%

Arrieta was forecast for $110 million but came up $35 million short of that. As Jon Heyman notes, there’s actually a strange clause in the deal that could allow the Phillies to extend the deal to five years and $135 million, but it’s based on a couple unlikely contingencies. So, for the moment, we’ll treat it as $75 million. Unlike top free agents in years past, Arrieta has signed for considerably less than the crowd anticipated. It seems possible, as a result, that even more than baseball’s middle class is embattled.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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6 years ago

Unlike the Moustakas/Lynn deals, this feels perfectly reasonable to me. Maybe that isn’t reasonable, and maybe Boras can argue Arrieta should have had more. But it feels like this is exactly what a player of his caliber and age should worth, and that the crowd-source just overshot in this case.

Also, good for the Phillies ownership for acquiring good players at fair prices and going for it. As a fan of another team, I hope it fails, but as a fan of baseball, I hope these teams are rewarded for trying to put a good product on the field.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
6 years ago
Reply to  ashlandateam

Yeah. I feel like we could just cut and paste the Santana post and all its comments here: it’s maybe a little bit more of a “splash” than you’d think a team in the Phillies’ position would make on a signing (just to make the team less bad for the next couple of years, rather than to make them into a postseason contender) — but it’s a good fit, the short-term money is available, it blocks no young player of much consequence, and it gives the fans something to root for while the young talent comes along.

6 years ago
Reply to  ashlandateam

Strongly agreed. A lot of us thought he would get more because we thought teams were idiots, not because we thought he was actually worth it!

Honestly, I think this is a little higher than I would have wanted to pay since I worry about him continuing to decline, but there’s also little question he makes the team better and after signing Santana they might as well try to win a few more games.

6 years ago
Reply to  ashlandateam

The Lynn deal is roughly in line with the value of wins ($7). He’s a 1.6ish WAR pitcher.

The Moustakas deal is just Boras doing his PR thing- turned down 1/17 and 3/45, having a number of offers better than 1/6.5.

Agreed that the Arrieta deal (5/115, plus opt out and incentives) is pretty much what was expected.