As January begins to wind up and several Scott Boras clients still click on the Indeed for Baseball Players website looking for work, here's some advice for John Mozeliak and the St. Louis Cardinals: don't sign Jake Arrieta.
Let's get into this as I pour cup of coffee #3 and listen to the brand new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album...
Arrieta is still a fine pitcher, but he's past his prime and will not be worth the contract he receives. As Bill DeWitt Jr. talked about last week, you'd be signing Arrieta for what he has done (namely the unreal 2015 season), and not what he will do for your team moving forward. He's a guy not at the end of the rope, but slowly getting there.
With the Chicago Cubs currently talking to representatives for Yu Darvish, the inclination is the Cardinals should look to the next best guy, Arrieta, but I don't think that line of thinking is strong for a variety of reasons. Let's go over a few of them.
First, Arrieta will turn 32 years old before he throws a pitch this season. Do you really want to sign a 32 year old pitcher to a 3-4 year deal? That's bad form for any club, unless that pitcher is Clayton Kershaw caliber. Arrieta's arm has over 1,100 innings on it, which usually means it's time for a major injury or two. That is buyer-beware territory.
Second, he simply isn't a dominant pitcher anymore. Arrieta was unreal in 2015, winning 22 games, competing four of them, and hurling 229 innings. He allowed 0.4 home runs per nine innings in 2015. After a very good but human frailty showing 2016 season, Arrieta took a tumble last year. He posted a 4.16 FIP with 14 wild pitches in only 168.1 innings. The hit rate was up as well, but there's more.
Arrieta's velocity has taken a hit over the past two years. While the mph drop in his four seam fastball isn't noteworthy due to the low usage of it, the velo drop in his two seamer is noticeable and important. He uses the sinker the most out of any of his pitches, which also include a cutter and slider.
Via Brooks Baseball, Opposing hitters found more success off Arrieta's sinker in 2017, and slugged it more often as well. They also hit his slider harder too, which will only increase as age and usage accumulates in 2018 and 2019. These things usually don't get better.
Third, you'd be paying ace type money for a pitcher who isn't one anymore. Let's face it. When Darvish signs for big money, Arrieta has every right to ask for as much money, if not more. He is arguably a better pitcher and has put together a better career than the former Los Angeles Dodger and Texas Ranger righthander. Some team is going to pay Arrieta for those services.
What Darvish gets, Arrieta should get too. The Cardinals don't need to do that, no matter how much their rotation screams possible defects.
If the Cards truly want to step back into the arms race, make a play for Tampa Bay's Chris Archer again. The Rays are still open for business, and would take a couple of those young pitchers off the Birds' farm system. Archer is locked up reasonably for the next four years, so the sacrifice in pitchers would be worth it, unless Mozeliak is expanding the rotation to seven spots in 2019.
If not trade, look again at Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb as options. They are cheaper yet just as reliable innings eaters as the top two options. Maybe Lynn wants to reload for a big contract next offseason, and takes a juicy one year deal. Maybe not.
It would be childish to react to the Darvish-Cubs conversation with an Arrieta deal. That wouldn't be wise for a team looking to get into the Manny Machado/Josh Donaldson sweepstakes later this year. With so much young pitching in tow, the Cardinals should pay premium prices for Darvish or Arrieta, but especially the latter.
Arrieta peaked late in his career, exploding out of nowhere with a Cy Young Award year in his sixth MLB season. It was impressive and dreadful from a St. Louis perspective, but the fall back to Earth has been revealing and humbling for the pitcher and the people looking on.
If the Cardinals didn't have Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Austin Gomber awaiting deployment, the need to reach hard for Arrieta may be there.
The way things are right now, signing Jake Arrieta wouldn't be wise for the Cardinals. It sounds good initially, but gives the baseball brain a stomach ache as the thought digests.
Arrieta, I respect the beard and physique, but I'm weary of just about everything else. No thanks.
Thanks for reading,