So what is the deal with Free Agent Jake Arrieta? How come the Cardinals are not looking at him? Is it his age, the amount of money he wants, or the decline of his pitching arm?
Arrieta reportedly is looking for more than Darvish’s deal, but then aren’t we all? Some talk goes back to a four-year, $88 million offer, which doesn’t top Darvish’s total payday, but does come with some bragging rights.
Darvish reportedly is guaranteed $25 million this season, $4 million more than his average annual value. A Cardinals or Brewers deal with Arrieta could start at, say, $28 million for 2018 and pay him $20 million each of the remaining three seasons. Voila, not only a higher average annual salary than Darvish but also the highest free-agent pitcher salary this year.
It’s always fun to spend other people’s millions, isn’t it? Who knows, maybe Arrieta will decide $88 million is enough when coupled with the chance to be a Cubs killer instead of the Cubs ace, and maybe the Cardinals or Brewers will decide a decorated pitcher who remade himself in the middle of a division race last season now knows who he is and what he’s doing, and would have some extra motivation to execute all that.
Why have teams been slow to ink Arrieta? Below is an analytical look at reasons why MLB front offices are hesitant to commit to the former Cubs ace.
This isn’t surprising to those who watched Arrieta pitch the past season, but Arrieta’s velocity might be the most concerning part of his profile. Below are Arrieta’s dips over the past three seasons on each of his pitch types, per Statcast™ and pitch-tracking data:
Sinker (2015/ ’16/ ’17): 95.3 mph / 94.5 mph / 92.2 mph
Four-seam fastball: 95.1 mph / 94.2 mph / 92.1 mph
Curveball: 81.3 mph / 81.1 mph / 78.8 mph
Slider: 90.8 mph / 89.8 mph / 87.8 mph
Changeup: 89.5 mph / 89.2 mph / 87.3 mph
Arrieta essentially shelved his four-seamer last season, throwing it only 54 times after he’d averaged 629 in the prior two campaigns. That took away a pitch with a healthy 24.5 percent whiff-per-swing rate in 2015-16, as well as an offering he could tunnel alongside his changeup and breaking balls.
Arrieta’s 25.7 percent whiff rate on all his pitches sat just outside the top 20 qualified MLB starters in ’15 (min. 1,000 total swings induced), but slipped to 21.5 percent last season. Declining velocity is maybe the most obvious red flag for a free-agent pitcher, and it appears Arrieta will have to rely more on craft and command in the years ahead.
Arrieta’s peak three seasons ago ranks among the greatest performances in baseball history. But his next team will be paying for the future, not the past, and the data suggests that zenith is likely in the rear-view mirror.
Arrieta still possesses the skill, guile and competitiveness to retire Major League hitters, but for how long? Teams may be wondering if Arrieta could truly fulfill the value of the mega contract he’s seeking.
Source: MLB\Matt Kelly