Could Coors Haunt Arrieta Down Stretch

SCOTTSDALE, Az. – Scratch Jake Arrieta from the free agents in limbo list. Arrieta was among those fed pie-in-the-sky expectations by his agent, which didn’t come about. But no reason to shed tears. Arrieta’s three-year deal with the Phillies is worth $75 million, making it the seventh largest annual average value of any pitcher’s contract.

Much like he did with J.D. Martinez, who eventually signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox, agent Scott Boras was mentioning a $200 million package in early talks about Arrieta. The offers, however, did not come down.

But it’s not like Arrieta became a bargain on the open market. The deal may not be for the length that Arrieta wanted, but the AAV equals the seventh highest among active pitchers. 

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Arrietta, who turned 32 last Tuesday, won the NL Cy Young in 2015, and while he has still been a quality starting pitcher since there has been a decline each of the last two years. His .583 winning percentage in 2017 was his lowest of the four seasons, and his 3.53 ERA was the highest in his four full seasons as a Cubs starting pitcher. His home runs allowed climbed to 23 last season, and his innings pitched have gone from 229 in 2015 to 168 1/3 in 2017.

 

What will be interesting is if the Rockies are in a post-season battle down the stretch. The Phillies come to Coors Field for four games the final week of the regular season. Arrieta has made only two appearances at Coors Field since being acquired from the Orioles by the Cubs on July 2, 2013 along with Pedro Strop, who was originally signed by, of all teams, the Rockies, for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.  The Cubs lost both of his appearances, 13-4 in a game he started Aug. 6, 2014, and 10-4 on May 9 last season.

His 14.54 ERA is more than 10 runs higher than any other NL ballpark.

The three-year deal will run through the 2020 season, during which Arrieta will be pitching at age 35. The world of analytics has allowed teams to come to grips with what scouts have contended forever -- that players take a sudden downturn after turning 35, which would be part of the reason teams are suddenly slowing down in their lengthy contracts for veteran free agents. There are 92 pitchers who have made at least 25 starts in seasons in which he was 36 or older since the advent of divisional play in 1969. Rich Hill, currently with the Dodgers, is the only one with an ERA below 3.00, having gone 24-13 with a 2.78 ERA.

Only 12 of the 92 had an ERA below 3.50, and 41 below 4.00.

And Hall of Famers aren't even immune. 

Baseball-reference.com the source for all charts on this page.