Are the Phillies ready to be a #MysteryTeam once again?
As memories of the stealth signing of Cliff Lee dance back into our heads, this report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal regarding the Phillies’ current position in the free agent starting pitching market has Phils fans wondering if the #MysteryTeam is making a comeback.
#Phillies checking in with Darvish and most of high-profile free agents, sources tell The Athletic. Idea is to assess respective markets to see if deal makes sense. Unlikely Phils would be high bidder, but if player fell into their range - preferably short-term - they might jump.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 24, 2018
Of course, those who cover the Phillies closely know this isn’t exactly a huge revelation.
This aligns with what Klentak said a few days ago about the free-agent market: https://t.co/ucXhjS4ene https://t.co/pJRNJpNaLt— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) January 24, 2018
It’s also something discussed on recent episodes of The Felske Files. The Phillies have the financial resources to sign someone that could be helpful, and now it appears as though the free agent market is coming back to them.
That the Phils have checked in on Darvish specifically is interesting, and it appears as if his market is now starting to take shape.
Source: Yu Darvish is increasingly likely to sign with an @MLB team this week. #Twins are among the teams with whom he is engaged in ongoing discussions. @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 24, 2018
As one of the few desirable free agents who was not given a qualifying offer by his former team, he would not require draft pick compensation and, as a result, will probably get at least a five-year deal from someone.
A six-year offer would almost certainly land Darvish for whoever makes the offer (if anyone does), but the Phils do not appear to be willing to go that high for him, or any other starter on the market.
Matt Klentak, last week: “We’ve had a lot of dialogue with free agents. We have basically told them the terms we would be interested in signing a player. Oftentimes, it doesn’t get to that point. That’s OK.” https://t.co/3szFup0ZjX— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) January 24, 2018
Darvish was excellent last season, going 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA with the Rangers and Dodgers last season, striking out 209 batters in 186.2 innings. He made 31 starts in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and he will be 31 years old this season.
People criticize his World Series performance where, in two starts, he lasted a total of 3.1 innings, but Astros hitters said after the Fall Classic that Darvish was tipping his pitches. He made one start in each of the NLDS and NLCS and gave up a total of 2 earned runs in 11.1 innings in those two series.
So he didn’t suddenly turn terrible in the World Series, nor did he shrink from a big stage. A mechanical issue screwed him up.
A better bet might be Jake Arrieta, a name that has been linked to the Phillies throughout the winter. Would a three-year, $90 million deal be enough to convince the former Cubs ace to join the Phils? A front-loaded deal would be in the best interest of the team, and if no other team is willing to go more than three years, it would seem as if the Phils have a great shot at landing the former Cy Young Award winner.
Arrieta is, of course, not an ace anymore, as I wrote about recently for numberFire. While his numbers improved from the first half (4.35 ERA) to the second half (2.28 ERA) in 2017, much of that can be attributed to a drastic reduction in his BABIP (.300 in the first half, .246 in the second half). His other peripherals didn’t change all that much.
Nevertheless, Arrieta would be an upgrade for the Phillies and would slot in as the team’s No. 2 starter, behind Aaron Nola.
Bear in mind, the Phillies are still the team that has signed a player to the largest free agent contract so far this off-season. The three-year, $60 million deal to Carlos Santana has not been beaten yet, and if the team can get one of the top-tier starting pitchers for a similar short-term deal at a higher average annual salary, it appears as if they’ll do it.
No one expected the Phillies to be players for Darvish or Arrieta at the start of the winter, but this has been the weirdest off-season for free agency in recent memory. Call it “collusion,” call it teams “getting smarter,” or teams “going cheap,” for whatever reason, the market is coming back to the Phils.
Whether they’re able or willing to pounce on it remains to be seen. Just don’t ever count out the #MysteryTeam.