Arrieta signs with Padres

August 17th, 2021

DENVER -- The Padres, in dire need of starting pitching as they cling to the National League’s second Wild Card spot, signed right-hander Jake Arrieta to a Minor League deal, the club announced on Monday. He is expected to be called up to make his first start with the club on Wednesday against the Rockies.

Arrieta, a 12-year veteran and the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner, has struggled this season, posting a 6.88 ERA across 20 starts. Nonetheless, the Padres are hoping a change of scenery can help rekindle at least some of Arrieta's prior dominance.

Arrieta, who was released by the Cubs last week, joined the Padres on Monday afternoon and threw a bullpen session in preparation for his start on Wednesday.

“Obviously I love Chicago, and that’s a place that I’ve had a lot of success,” Arrieta said. “We had success as a group, and we did a lot of special things. But we’re here now. … And I wouldn’t be here if [the Padres] didn’t have a need. I expect to give them innings.”

That’s precisely what they need. The Padres’ rotation was already thin, after they failed to land a starting pitcher at the Trade Deadline. But since then, the situation has reached another level of precarity. Right-handers Yu Darvish (back tightness) and Chris Paddack (left oblique strain) have both landed on the IL since the Deadline, leaving the Padres in a tricky spot. Their organizational depth is thin, and they can’t address the issue by making a trade.

As such, Padres officials view the Arrieta signing as something of a no-lose situation. It’s entirely possible that Arrieta’s struggles continue in San Diego. His velocity is down this season, and he’s allowing much more hard contact than he did while he was at his peak.

But considering the other options, if Arrieta can lean on his experience to deliver, say, two or three quality starts down the stretch, that would be an unquestioned win. Especially considering the minuscule cost that the Padres paid.

“He’s done a lot of things,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “As somebody with that type of experience and resume, to be able to put him in a little bit of a change of scenery -- a great opportunity to pitch, to pitch well and to pitch for a winning team. So we’ll see how the next couple weeks line up. But I think it’s a great opportunity for both sides -- for us and for Arrieta.”

Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and a struggling Ryan Weathers are the starters remaining from a rotation that once looked utterly dominant on paper. In the meantime, longtime reliever Craig Stammen has transitioned into a de facto starting role.

The Padres remain hopeful that both Paddack and Darvish will return to the rotation and make an impact for the stretch run. San Diego leads Cincinnati by 2 1/2 games in the Wild Card race.

While they wait on Darvish and Paddack, however, the Padres needed arms, and they needed innings. They think Arrieta might be a serviceable solution in the interim. Arrieta owns a 3.93 ERA and 115 victories over 12 big league seasons, though he hasn’t posted a sub-4 ERA since 2018, and he hasn’t notched a sub-4 FIP since 2016.

Asked to assess those struggles, the 35-year-old Arrieta pointed to poor execution of his pitches -- “really, just being over the plate too often,” he said. He’s adamant that there’s a lot more left in the tank, even if it hasn’t shown this season.

“I take responsibility for how I’ve performed,” Arrieta said. “I expect to be better, and I expect to be better on a team like this that is looking forward to winning a World Series. In order to do that, I need to be good for them.”