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:
Jake Arrieta gets $75 million over 3 years
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 11, 2018
Jay Jaffe will address the agreement in greater detail soon. For the moment, however, it makes sense to consider the implications of this transaction on two fronts — in the context both of (a) the Phillies’ rotation and (b) this winter’s very strange free-agent market.
First, the Phillies. Here, we recognize one of the great benefits of acquiring a frontline starter — namely, that he replaces not another frontline starter, but whichever pitcher has been designated to occupy the very last spot in the rotation. Our depth-chart projections call for Arrieta to produce something just shy of three wins in 2018. How does that compare to whomever he’s displacing?
By way of reference, here were our projections for the Philadelphia rotation before the addition of Arrieta:
|Enyel De Los Santos||9||5.18||5.23||0.0|
The rotation spots of Eickhoff, Nola, Pivetta, and Velasquez are all probably safe. In this case, Arrieta is probably replacing some combination of Leiter and Lively. The immediate benefit to the Phils, in that context, appears to be about two wins for 2018. The secondary benefit is that, if and when a Phillies starter is unable to make an appearance, his spot will be assigned to Mark Leiter and not someone residing even closer to replacement level.
So that’s the signing from Philadelphia’s side. What about Arrieta’s?
At the end of February, Craig Edwards made a noteworthy observation — namely, that free agents who receive the largest projected contracts in our annual crowdsourcing exercise are actually the most likely to exceed their crowdsourced estimates.
Consider this table from Edwards’ piece:
|Crowd ($/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:
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:
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.