Jake Arrieta and the Seattle Mariners Part 2
Yesterday, we looked at a flimsy connection between the Seattle Mariners and free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta. Today, let’s assume the connection is solid and look at what Jake Arrieta can do for the Mariners in 2018 and beyond.
As we have mentioned before, all of these connections are “stretches” at best. However, the simplest connection is undeniable: the Mariners need starting pitching. It is this main connection, as well as those documented yesterday, that makes the Arrieta question one worth answering.
Arrieta, who will be entering his age 32 season, is coming off an up-and-down season. In his first 18 starts, Arrieta posted a 4.35 ERA with a 1.303 WHIP and an opponents slug % of .422 . Not terrible, but nowhere near the Ace like numbers he posted in 2014 and 2015.
In his final 12 starts however, Arrieta posted a 2.28 ERA with opponents slugging a measly .394 and a solid 1.09 WHIP.
Overall, the 3.53 ERA and 4.11 xFIP are solid production, as is the 2.4 fWAR. Arrieta is trending downward, but his 2 year average still shows a solid #2 arm. The underlying numbers show that Arrieta is not missing as many bats as he did in his breakout 2014 and 2015 season.
This trend could be do to the troubling drop in fastball velocity. After averaging a 94.6 mph fastball from 2014-2016, that average dropped to 92.9 in 2017. A four pitch pitcher, Arrieta lives off his fastball, and the drop in velocity is troubling, as is his declining chase percentage.
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In 2015, hitters swung and missed on 34.2% of pitches Arrieta threw out of the zone. In 2017, that number dropped to 27.9%. His home run rate has nearly doubled in that time span as well, from 7.8% in 2015 to 14.1% in 2017.
All of these appear to show a pitcher on the decline. However, what we still see in his overall numbers is a strong #3 starter with #1 potential. Arrieta is still capable of getting strikeouts, posting a solid 8.71 K/9 in 2017.
Pitchers acquired by Jerry Dipoto often have K rates above 8.0/9, while managing around 3.0 BB/9. In 2017, Arrieta checked both columns, posting a great 2.84 BB/9.
Another positive mark in Arrieta’s plus column is his durability. He has made 25 or more starts each of the past 4 seasons, including 30 or more in 3 straight seasons.
Overall, the profile on Arrieta shows a pitcher in decline, but still a very good one at that.
Like most starting pitchers, the fit for Arrieta is obvious. On paper, the former Chicago Cub would slide into the #2 spot in the rotation, behind James Paxton. He could be given the Opening Day nod, sliding Paxton behind him to break up the righties Mike Leake and Felix Hernandez.
Arrieta doesn’t get a huge lift pitching in Seattle as opposed to Chicago, as both parks play relatively neutral to the home run ball. The ball park might provide a bit more coverage for Arrieta, but nothing substantial.
Arrieta has a knack for throwing ground ball outs, posting a ground ball percentage (GB%) of 45.1% in 2017. That was actually a decrease from 56% in 2015 and 52% in 2016. However; adding another ground ball pitcher to Mike Leake and Felix Hernandez brings balance to the rotation in which James Paxton is an extreme flyball pitcher.
Understanding that Arrieta is the second best starter on the market, means that he will, in no way, come cheap. After his agents initial request of $200 million was more or less laughed at, there appears to be an obvious range Arrieta falls into.
In today’s market, Arrieta likely falls into the $20-$25 million per season category. The real question comes from the duration of the deal. Arrieta is likely hoping to cash in big, so his agents are likely pitching a 7 year deal. However; for a 32-year-old declining pitcher, the market has completely balked at this offer.
So what can the Mariners do? Seattle can jump the market right now, offering a full 7 year deal at $175 million and get this done tomorrow. This is inadvisable to say the least. The commitment is too long for a team with a 2 year window.
A creative solution could be on a 3 or 4 year deal, worth about $25 million per, with player options for an additional 2 years. In the end, the final contract will lie somewhere in the 5 years, for $135 million deal.
Next: Jake Arrieta and the Seattle Mariners Part 1
One thing is for certain, the Mariners need a starting pitcher, and a pretty damn good one. Arrieta might not be as good as he once was, but he is still one of the best options remaining on the market. With limited trade resources, the only way Seattle can get a pitcher the quality of Arrieta is to buy one in free agency.