CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jacob Arrieta is expected to put on a Phillies uniform for the first time Tuesday morning at Spectrum Field, but even before he finished his physical Monday in Philadelphia, he had impacted the team that agreed to sign him to a three-year, $75 million contract.Arrieta accelerated their
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jacob Arrieta is expected to put on a Phillies uniform for the first time Tuesday morning at Spectrum Field, but even before he finished his physical Monday in Philadelphia, he had impacted the team that agreed to sign him to a three-year, $75 million contract.
Arrieta accelerated their timetable to win. He made their postseason pursuits real.
"It shows that the turning of the tide is a lot sooner than I think we all thought," Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff said prior to the announcement
• Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said last month that he believed the Phillies have the opportunity to "shock" people. The first-year skipper said he expected the Phillies to be playing meaningful games in September. He said these things despite legitimate concerns about the starting rotation.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Arrieta, 32, eases some of those fears. He provides a presence and pedigree the Phillies rotation hasn't seen since the organization traded Cole Hamels to Texas in July 2015. Arrieta won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award with the Cubs and helped Chicago win the World Series in '16. He struggled early last season but finished strong, as he made 30-plus starts for the third consecutive season.
"It's a sign," Vince Velasquez said. "Making a big move like that is kind of letting us go on our own and seeing what we make of it."
Arrieta makes the Phillies better in a Nationial League East division that arguably has only the Nationals truly built to win this year. It is one reason why Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter had been recruiting Arrieta since Hunter signed a two-year contract with the Phillies in December.
Hunter and Arrieta are longtime friends. They were teammates on the collegiate Team USA in 2006 and Orioles teammates from 2011-13. Not only have they kept in touch over the years -- Arrieta told Hunter he had agreed to a deal with the Phillies via FaceTime on Sunday morning -- but their wives have remained friends.
"I was coming hard in the paint, man," Hunter said of his recruiting efforts.
Of course, in the end, Hunter could have been Arrieta's twin brother and it would not have mattered had the Phillies not shown Arrieta the money.
They did. And because they did they believe they have a legitimate chance to make the postseason.
"I mean, the team could have made a run without him," Hunter said. "You never know in baseball. That's the thing about it. I don't want to put that burden or that weight on one person to say that one guy is going to transform an entire organization or a team, but if you asked him if there's anybody that could do it, it'd be him. He's a confident guy. And you have to be at the level he's pitched at for the last few years. You have to walk around with that swag and I think it's going to take a lot of pressure off a lot of people having him in here."
• Arrieta has strong history at Citizens Bank Park
Aaron Nola and Arrieta form a potentially dynamic 1-2 punch atop the Phillies rotation, although it is unclear if Arrieta will be ready to pitch the first week of the season because he signed so late. Kapler said he will learn more Tuesday. Regardless, Kapler said Nola will start Opening Day because he has "earned that right."
Eickhoff, Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to fall behind them, although Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter and others had been competing for a rotation job this spring. The Phillies believe a healthy Eickhoff, combined with a wipeout curveball, is a workhorse that can make 30 starts. They believe Velasquez can dominate if he ever learns to consistently throw his fastball up in the strike zone, while many analytics indicate Pivetta is primed for a breakout season.
If a couple of those starters click, a team that played .500 in its final 76 games last season could be talking about making a move around the Trade Deadline and playing important games in September for the first time since 2011.
Interestingly, Eickhoff said there wasn't much talk about Arrieta in the Phillies clubhouse Monday morning.
"Everyone understands the gravity of the situation and how big of a piece this is," Eickhoff said. "It's almost like a calm before the storm, if he does in fact come here. It's going to be a pretty special thing to see him walk around the clubhouse."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.