Perhaps the best option remaining on the free-agent pitching market is Jake Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner.
Arrieta, Phillies near deal?
The Phillies are moving close to a deal with Arrieta, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. -- This report was first posted on March 11.
Arrieta could sign soon, Phillies emerge as favorite
The recent signings of Jonathan Lucroy, Lance Lynn and Mike Moustakas have left Arrieta standing as the highest-profile free agent remaining, and there are indications that the right-hander could be inking his own contract soon.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Sunday that discussions are "heating up" in regards to Arrieta, who could sign within the next handful of days. Nightengale added that the Phillies are "looming as the favorite" to reach a deal with Arrieta, who is entering his age-32 season.
:: Free agent buzz ::
Arrieta and his agent, Scott Boras, have remained patient amid a glacial offseason for free-agent signings and have not signaled that they would settle for a bargain deal. The one-year, $12 million deal the Twins gave Lynn on Saturday could have kick-started Arrieta's negotiation process, as those two pitchers were seen as the top remaining available starters alongside Alex Cobb.
The Phillies, meanwhile, are still "considering the possibility of adding as many as two free-agent starters," as reported by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Philadelphia enters 2018 with one of the lowest payrolls in the Major Leagues and have a ton of financial flexibility moving forward. The Phillies are expected to be a major player in the next free-agent extravaganza, which could be highlighted by superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and the additions of talented players like Arrieta and first baseman Carlos Santana (who signed a three-year, $60 million deal with Philadelphia earlier this offseason) could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot next winter. All five of the Phillies' projected 2018 starters possess at least one remaining Minor League option, meaning Arrieta's addition wouldn't cost the team any organizational depth.
Arrieta has been one of the Majors' best starters over the past three seasons, but showed declining velocity and allowed harder contact while recording a 3.53 ERA in 2017. Still, Arrieta's postseason experiences with the Cubs could prove valuable to a young Phillies club looking to take the next step toward contending. -- This report was first posted on March 11.
Padres keeping eye on Arrieta market
After finishing with baseball's seventh-worst record in 2017, the Padres set a franchise record by signing free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer to a $144 million contract. Now they may be setting their eyes on the top pitcher on the market: Arrieta.
According to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Padres have been talking internally about signing the former NL Cy Young Award winner. San Diego had not previously been linked to the right-hander, who has mainly been connected to the Phillies, Brewers, Nationals and Cubs.
While it remains a long shot, San Diego has been eyeing the top remaining free agents, which also include Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Like Hosmer, the trio of pitchers all have a qualifying offer attached, which means the Padres would have to sacrifice two more Draft picks and even more international money if they signed one of the pitchers.
The Padres have a young, unproven rotation that certainly could benefit from adding a veteran arm. Clayton Richard and Bryan Mitchell have essentially locked down spots, but there are eight pitchers competing for the last three spots.
Arrieta would immediately slot as their ace, even after coming off a "down season" with a 3.53 ERA in 2017. The 32-year-old had three top 10 NL Cy Young Award finishes in the past four seasons for the Cubs, winning in '15.
However, the Padres are still years away from contention, even though their top-ranked farm system inspired agent Scott Boras to say that "the organization is a volcano of hot talent lava." Arrieta may no longer be in his prime when the team is playoff-ready, and the right-hander could opt for a team already close to contention.
Arrieta has been in no rush to sign and hasn't signaled that he's willing to take a short-term or below-market deal. Ultimately, Padres sources told Heyman that they are likely to stick with their young arms, but that could change if Arrieta is more amenable to a bargain deal.
Phillies, Brewers, Nationals interested in Arrieta
Arrieta is the most sought-after starting pitcher remaining on the open market, and the Phillies, Brewers and Nationals are all showing interest in the veteran right-hander, sources tell MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.
All three clubs have reportedly been in the sweepstakes throughout the offseason to land Arrieta, who is likely seeking a deal in the range of the five-year, $126 million deal Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs.
The Phillies are "considering the possibility of adding as many as two free-agent starters," Morosi reports, as they have the lowest payroll in the Major Leagues for 2018.
None of Philadelphia's five current starters -- Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively -- have eclipsed 200 innings in a season. Arrieta has averaged just under that mark over the past three seasons and would bring postseason experience to a club looking to make a postseason run in the next year or two.
As Morosi notes, the five aforementioned Phillies starters all have at least one Minor League option left, so signing Arrieta would not cost Philadelphia any organizational depth.
The Brewers and Nationals are in slightly different positions, as Milwaukee has been looking for a top-end arm to anchor its rotation, while Washington would bolster an already stellar group headed by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
Since being traded to the Cubs during the 2013 season, Arrieta has gone 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts while striking out 793 batters in 803 innings. He was named to the NL All-Star team in '16. -- This report was first posted on March 7.
Nationals maintaining dialogue with Arrieta
As they've already begun to roll out their rotation in Spring Training, the Nationals may be in the market to add another arm, and the club is reportedly still engaged with Arrieta, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale and MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Heyman said Washington general manager Mike Rizzo is high on Arrieta and noted the veteran could also provide a long-term solution with Gio Gonzalez slated to hit free agency after this season. For a club seeking to advance beyond the postseason's first round, Arrieta would fortify the middle of an already elite rotation and give Washington three starters -- along with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg -- with strong playoff pedigrees.
However, Nightengale notes that the club's dialogue is part of an overall monitoring of the market, which indicates they may be looking at other options. Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, who have been believed to among the second tier of free-agent starters available, behind Arrieta and Yu Darvish (who has since signed with the Cubs), are also still available. The Nationals were linked to Lynn in January, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports the Phillies have entertained the possibility of signing two of the remaining free-agent starters, with Lynn and Arrieta the most likely targets. While financially viable for the Phillies, it remains unlikely.
For a club desperately seeking to advance beyond the postseason's first round, Arrieta would bring a playoff pedigree and fortify the middle of an already elite rotation. And beyond 2018, after which Gonzalez will become a free agent, a multiyear deal for Arrieta would give Washington some rotational stability.
Many executives and media have speculated Washington to be a strong fit for the veteran, who shares representation with a number of Nationals players. Heyman said that although the Phillies remain the favorites and the Brewers are also in the mix, the Nationals "can't be counted out." -- This report was first posted on March 1.
Phils, Arrieta far apart on contract length
Phillies owner John Middleton addressed Jake Arrieta and the starting-pitching market on Thursday, saying, "It's hard to characterize it at this point" whether the team will be able to add a starting pitcher before Opening Day.
Arrieta would of course be a huge get for the Phillies, but they might be too far apart in terms of contract length. Sources have told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that the Phillies would be open to a three-year deal for Arrieta, but they are currently unwilling to go to the six or seven years that the right-hander wants.
As far as Philadelphia's negotiations with Arrieta, Middleton said Thursday he hasn't heard from Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, noting that general manager Matt Klentak will be the one who negotiates any potential deal. The team and Boras have had discussions throughout the offseason, but little has changed at this point.
"It's not so remote that you'd say no, there's really no chance," Middleton said. "But I would tell you we're not just looking at free agents. We're talking to teams about trades, because there are players that we would trade for."
Even though the Phillies think they'll be much improved this season, they don't like the idea of committing $100-plus million to a 32-year-old pitcher regardless of Arrieta's talent, according to Zolecki.
"We want to improve the team, we're always trying to improve the team," Middleton said, "but we've got to do it a way that makes sense now and next year. We don't want to sacrifice something significant in the future by making a short-term move." -- This report was first posted on Feb. 22.
Heyman sees Arrieta's best fit to be Brewers
The Brewers have already taken aggressive measures to bolster a roster that last year finished just one game shy of the postseason, yet their most glaring personnel deficiency -- a need for at least one top-of-the-rotation arm -- remains unaddressed. For this, and with the division-rival Cubs' signing Yu Darvish, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman predicts in a post for FanRag Sports that Arrieta's most suitable landing spot is Milwaukee.
The Brewers have already added free agent Jhoulys Chacin to complement the Opening Day rotation with Chase Anderson and Zach Davies. Jimmy Nelson, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2017 before undergoing shoulder surgery, is not expected until some time later in the first half as he returns from injury. Manager Craig Counsell said the club's current plan is to have a group of Brandon Woodruff, Brent Suter, Yovani Gallardo, Junior Guerra and Aaron Wilkerson compete for the remaining starts. Even with Nelson's return, the current contingent is projected 15th in FanGraphs WAR at the position -- well behind the Cubs and Cardinals, who the Brewers will be chasing in the National League Central.
Couple their needs at the position and owner Mark Attanasio's comments at Fanfest last month indicating that the club had financial flexibility to add to it, and a union with Arrieta appears a strong fit. The Brewers finished with an MLB-low $63 million in payroll in 2017.
"We could sign a big pitcher. If the right situation comes along, we can take advantage of that," Attanasio said.
For all of these reasons, Heyman speculates Arrieta will (eventually) sign with the Brewers. He also notes the Nationals, Phillies, Cardinals and Twins -- each of whom have been linked to Arrieta -- as other potential landing spots, but not to as strong of an extent as Milwaukee. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 15.
Arrieta market may be down to Brewers, Twins
Now that Yu Darvish has agreed to a deal with the Cubs, the free-agent picture for Arrieta is starting to crystallize. The Brewers and Twins, two teams previously linked to Darvish, now appear to be two of the favorites to land Arrieta, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Sunday night. The Nationals, Phillies and Cardinals are also possible destinations for Arrieta, according to Heyman.
Per Heyman, the Brewers could be the most logical fit, and Milwaukee has "been in touch" with Arrieta. The Brewers have made some big splashes already this offseason, signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich, but ace Jimmy Nelson is recovering from right shoulder surgery and their rotation could use a boost, especially if they want to keep pace with the improved Cubs.
The Nationals, meanwhile, are looking to make a deep postseason run, and Arrieta could take an already strong rotation to the next level. General manager Mike Rizzo reportedly loves the idea of adding someone like Arrieta, but Washington is also concerned with remaining below the luxury-tax threshold.
The Phillies are an up-and-coming young team, but they've also already signed Carlos Santana and could look to bolster their pitching staff, too. As Heyman notes, Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and director of player development Joe Jordan were all Orioles executives when Baltimore drafted Arrieta.
According to Heyman, the Twins had appeared to favor Darvish and were focused on him, so an Arrieta-Twins pact might come as a surprise. But they do need pitching with Ervin Santana set to miss time while recovering from right middle finger surgery; the best fit might just be someone like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb instead of Arrieta.
Looking to get back to the postseason amid a competitive NL Central, St. Louis can afford Arrieta, but improving its bullpen has been a higher priority than its rotation. Addressing that need, the club has reached a deal with free-agent reliever Bud Norris, a source told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal on Monday morning. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 12.