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Why the Phillies should offer a deadline for Jake Arrieta to sign

On Episode 180 of Hittin’ Season, host John Stolnis wonders when the Phillies should cut bait on their pursuit of another starting pitcher.

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League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Anyone who has listened to my podcast or read my work for the last few months knows I’ve been one of the strongest advocates of the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta to a contract that most Phils fans would find unsettling.

I’m probably the lone guy calling on the team to give him a four-year deal, and I’m dying alone on that hill because I believe Arrieta can help the 2018 Phillies legitimately challenge for a National League wild card. Arrieta can help this team get off to a strong start right out of the gate, and perhaps even put the team in a position at the Trade Deadline where general manager Matt Klentak can make even more improvements.

But here we sit, on March 9, with just a few weeks left before the start of the regular season, and Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still holding out for a deal that is simply not out there. Right or wrong, these pitchers are not going to get the deals they’re hoping for, even if a contending team loses a pitcher to injury this spring.

Spring training games largely don’t matter for veteran position players, but for veteran pitchers, they are important because they help pitchers stretch out to the point where they can go 6-7 innings right from Opening Day. But as Arrieta and Co. wait for a team to give them what they want, precious stretching-out time is slipping away. Certainly these players are working out on their own and are in as good a shape as they can be, but that’s much different than being in a big league camp.

Which is why the Phillies should offer a deadline to Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb. They should tell them, in one week’s time, if they are unwilling to take the Phils’ offer, the team is going to rescind the offer and move on with what they have.

There are a couple reasons this makes sense.

First, everyone assumes that if you sign Arrieta to a three or four-year deal, you’re likely going to get two productive seasons out of him, 2018 and 2019. But if he’s not ready to start the regular season and has to use April as his spring training, that could also affect his May. In that case, you’ve already lost two months of the ‘18 season, one of the two seasons you were hoping to get top production out of him.

Second, while the players probably don’t care that much about the Arrieta rumors, it is still something that is hanging over the team. The manager is asked about it, the GM is asked about it, the team president is asked about it and the owner is asked about it. At some point, and the next week is probably that timeframe, the team has to decide to stand behind the players already on the roster and stop pining for outside help.

Third, if the Phillies are offering the most money over a three-year period, perhaps it’s enough to get Arrieta off the sidelines and into the fold (although I doubt it).

We’re soon going to be past the point where adding Arrieta is going to be helpful for 2018. The Phils need to let him know that, in another week, they’re done with the pursuit.

As badly as I want him, having Arrieta for just two-thirds of a season in ‘18 isn’t worth the contract and the relinquishing of a draft pick in order to land him.

It’s now or never time. On Episode 180 of Hittin’ Season, I talked with ESPN’s Dan Szymborski about his ZiPS projections for the Phils and his recent article in which he argues for the team adding Arrieta and how the Phillies are closer to contention than most think.

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