Even with Jake Arrieta, Phillies still have enormous flexibility

Even with Jake Arrieta, Phillies still have enormous flexibility

Here's the thing about that vaunted 2018-19 MLB free-agent class you've been hearing about for years: There's no elite pitcher who would have been realistically available for the Phillies to sign.

Clayton Kershaw is a safe bet to opt out of the final two years of his deal, but given the Phillies' disinterest in signing a pitcher to a long-, long-term deal — along with their interest in Manny Machado — Kershaw was never realistic here.

Which is why the Phillies had to add starting pitching help this offseason when seemingly everything played to their favor. It was why, when Jake Arrieta continued to linger in free agency in early March, the Phillies had to step up and get the deal done.

Next year's payroll
Arrieta's contract, according to Jon Heyman, pays $30 million in Year 1, $25 million in Year 2, $20 million in Year 3. It makes sense to frontload the contract because the Phillies have so few dollars committed in 2019.

Even after signing Arrieta for $25 million per year, Carlos Santana for $20 million per year and throwing a combined $35 million to Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter over the next two seasons, the Phillies still have less than $70 million in guaranteed commitments for next year's team.

Now, that doesn't include the raises for keepers like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Hector Neris, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Luis Garcia, etc. 

Perhaps not every player from that group is still a Phillie 12 months now, but their relative cheapness is what prompted a team that wasn't totally sure what it was going to do this offseason to sign one of the two best starting pitchers on the market. 

Aside from that veteran free-agent quartet, pretty much every Phillies player who matters is making less than $7 million per season. And then you have the super-cheap guys like Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford and Williams, who all have under a year of service time.

It's kind of similar to what the Eagles are doing with Carson Wentz: Filling out the team around him while Wentz is still on his inexpensive rookie deal.

What Arrieta accomplishes
Aside from what Arrieta is able to contribute on the field this season, his presence on the Phillies will make someone like Machado take the Phils more seriously next winter. If nothing goes catastrophically wrong injury-wise this season, free agents will look at the Phils as a young team with some key vets that could be on the brink of taking the next step toward 90 or so wins.

And the beauty of the ways the Phillies have methodically rebuilt to this point is that even after making two free-agent splashes, they could still sign someone like Machado next offseason, and perhaps even sign another high-priced free agent, and they'd still be about $30 million under their 2014 payroll. (That was their last-gasp, A.J. Burnett-Marlon Byrd offseason.)

As Arrieta stayed unsigned, this move just made more and more sense for the Phillies every day. Had Arrieta, at the same age, been a free agent last year or the year before, he'd have gotten that five-year-plus deal. It was only two offseasons ago that Jordan Zimmermann, for example, got $110 million.

The Phils waited, waited, waited, and got a more team-friendly deal than the one Arrieta's old team, the Cubs, signed Yu Darvish to. They may have gotten the better pitcher as well.

Brushbacks, hit batsmen, ejections in Phils' spring training game

NBC Sports Philadelphia

Brushbacks, hit batsmen, ejections in Phils' spring training game


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies bring extra pitchers over from the minor-league complex for bullpen depth every game in spring training. For the pitchers, it’s a nice little recognition of a job well done. They often don’t get in the game, but they get to put on a big-league uniform and put a day’s worth of big-league meal money in their pocket.
Parker Frazier got even more than that on Thursday. He not only got in the game. He got ejected.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a spring training game,” Frazier said with a laugh afterward. “I’ll take the first for something.”

Home plate umpire Tom Hallion gave Frazier the boot for hitting Detroit’s Derek Hill with a pitch in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss. Frazier hit Hill with an off-speed pitch, so it clearly was not intentional. But Hallion had already issued warnings to both benches after Zach Eflin had hit Jose Iglesias and Detroit’s Matthew Boyd came in close twice against Odubel Herrera. In addition to Frazier, Hallion also ejected Phillies reliever Pedro Beato for hitting a batter in the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler and bench coach Rob Thomson were ejected with Frazier and Beato, respectively.

It made for a crazy scene, especially in a spring training game.

Herrera believed that Boyd intentionally threw at him as retaliation for Iglesias getting hit. Boyd at first threw over Herrera’s head as Herrera tried to call timeout. He then came inside on Herrera. Herrera sidestepped the pitch and took first with a walk.

“He can’t hit me,” a defiant Herrera said afterward. “I’m too quick.”

Frazier definitely wasn’t trying to hit Hill, not with a slider.

“It was a slider that didn’t slide,” he joked.

Frazier is the 29-year-old son of former big-league pitcher George Frazier. He’s a career minor leaguer who has been in pro ball since 2007 and pitched in the Rockies, Reds, White Sox, A’s and Diamondbacks organizations. He pitched the last three seasons in independent ball and is in Phillies camp for the first time.

Frazier’s fiancee and future in-laws were in from Oklahoma for the game. They expected to see him pitch at the minor-league complex, but instead got to see him experience an eventful day in big-league camp.

After being ejected, Frazier returned to the clubhouse. A text from his fiancee awaited him.

“They wanted to know what happened,” he said. “I told them accidental hit pitch.”

Kapler wouldn't discuss what he said to Hallion after Frazier's ejection. He said he would respect the umpire's decision because those are the rules.

But Kapler made it clear that he didn’t believe his pitchers were trying to hit anyone.

“We have a minor leaguer in the game and he’s just trying to make a good impression,” Kapler said. “He threw a slider that backed up and hit somebody. Beato is also trying to make a club and make a good impression. There’s no reason to not throw strikes. Balls will get away. It’s part of the game.”

Arrieta comes out strong, but Kapler remains vague on timetable

AP Images

Arrieta comes out strong, but Kapler remains vague on timetable

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ever since Jake Arrieta flew into town on Air Middleton and raised expectations for 2018, Phillies officials have said they would take a methodical approach with getting him ready for the regular season.

The Phils followed that plan in holding Arrieta to two innings and 31 pitches in the right-hander’s hotly anticipated spring debut against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.

“We had a very specific pitch count in mind and we feel like we executed the innings and the pitch count to a T,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We did not want to push the envelope at all. There’s no reason to. We’re focused on the long view.”

Arrieta struck out the first two batters of the game then allowed a solo home run to two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, a double, a single and another run over the balance of his outing. He had hoped to go three innings, but understands the team’s plan.

“I'm on board with what these guys intend to do,” said the 32-year-old pitcher, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phils last week. “I know they have my health and the team's success over the long haul in mind. That's the most important thing moving forward.”

Kapler liked what he saw from Arrieta.

“It was a real positive outing,” he said. “We wanted to see health and strength. We saw both of those things and he threw strikes.”

Twenty-two of Arrieta’s 31 pitches were strikes.

Arrieta’s arm strength was impressive. He touched 95 mph on the stadium radar gun. He also threw several fastballs that registered 94. His fastball velocity had been a concern as it dropped from 94.9 mph in his Cy Young season of 2015 to 92.6 mph last season, according to PITCHf/x data.

“My timing and my delivery were nice,” Arrieta said. “The ball was coming out of my hand good. Even though I'm not particularly worried about velocity, the velocity was nice today. Sinking fastball was really good. I threw some good curveballs. The cutter wasn't necessarily great, along with the changeup. But those will come with repetition.”

Arrieta said he had “a ton of nervous energy” before the start.

“Now that it's over, I take a deep breath and I remember what it feels like to be in a game situation,” he said. “Umpires, crowd. It felt great. I'm healthy. The ball is coming out good. To get the first one out of the way — even though it is a little bit later — it's a good sign.”

Kapler continued to play things close to the vest with Arrieta’s timetable. What is clear, however, is that Arrieta will get one more start in Florida before camp breaks on Tuesday. He could build to around 50 pitches in that one and be ready to start in New York on April 2, 3 or 4. If the Phils decide that Arrieta needs two more outings to prepare for the regular season, he could debut on April 7 at home against Miami. Either way, he lines up to make 30-plus starts.