Veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta remains unsigned. The Chicago Cubs aren’t bringing back Arrieta on a one-year deal. That’s surprising, given that he is one of this winter’s top free agent pitchers and performed for the club in the past. Over the last couple days, Arrieta has been mentioned in Padres’ rumors.
Currently, it has already been reported that the Nationals, Phillies, and Brewers have at least some interest in Arrieta, so the Padres have company in that regard. Thursday, a report by Fanrag Sports’ Jon Heyman stated the Padres’ have “discussed” adding Arrieta. The Brewers are the favorite to sign Arrieta according to oddsmakers currently, as they are built to win. The Nationals are also very interested, but there’s been no evidence of any serious talks yet. Those stories were mostly of the speculative variety, with the knowledge that Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo likes Arrieta and the Nats have completed a lot of deals with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, in the past.
This offseason, the Padres have already inked first baseman Eric Hosmer to a nine-figure contract, so they’re clearly willing to invest in improvements and build around what is the best farm system in the game. San Diego presently has Clayton Richard penciled in as its likely Opening Day starter, and its likely No. 2 man is in camp on a non-roster invitation, Tyson Ross. They could use some pitching.
The 32-year-old Arrieta has declined a bit since his Cy Young season of 2015, but he has still been an excellent starting pitcher. Over the past two seasons, Arrieta has made 61 starts and pitched to a 3.30 ERA (129 ERA+) while striking out roughly a batter per inning. He also hasn’t been on the disabled list since early in the 2014 season, so he has been durable. His fastball velocity was down overall last season, but part of that was an intentional effort to pitch to contact more often.
Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award in 2015 when he was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 229 innings. He was very good again in 2016, going 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA as he started and won two games in the World Series. Last year, Arrieta was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and his WHIP and home run rate were higher than in the previous three seasons. The numbers are trending the wrong way, but he should still have value for a team at the top end of a rotation.
Arrieta isn’t anxious to sign what he considered an under-market deal. He has the patience to wait things out, but at what point will the pitcher just take a deal in order to keep his sanity. He has to be nervous at this point looking for work in 2018. The Padres would only be interested if his price tag dropped dramatically.
Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn remain unsigned. They are quality veteran pitchers for sure — all three have ZiPS projections of at least 2.1 WAR, with Arrieta leading at 2.7. They have yet to find the right match at the right price, but the clock is sticking. Keep in mind that each pitcher rejected a $17.4 million qualifying offer from his former team, and the market they expected never materialized.
The Padres are surely kicking the tires on some of these pitchers, but when push comes to shove, the time probably isn’t right to make any further financial commitments until this Padres team matures a little bit more. There will be a time when the Friars go the extra mile. Today just doesn’t appear to be that time.