Jake Arrieta ain't happening, Phillies fans

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Jake Arrieta ain't happening, Phillies fans

ORLANDO, Fla. — Throughout this entire offseason, Phillies officials have privately said that they will not be players for top free-agent starting pitchers seeking long contracts and huge paydays.

It's not that the Phillies can't do it. This is the same ownership group that signed free agent Cliff Lee to a mega-deal a few years ago, the same ownership group that gave Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard huge extensions.

Money is not an issue for this team. 

The Phillies will spend big again someday soon — GM Matt Klentak talked about that Monday — but the time is not right, at least when it comes to signing free-agent pitchers on the other side of age 30 whose impressive career track records have included some recent blips in performance and the occasional health concern.

Back in October, club president Andy MacPhail talked about the downside of signing these types of pitchers and the dangers of paying for what he called "past performance." He went on to stress something that he has stressed since he arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 2015 — the need to develop your own pitchers.

Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are the top two starting pitchers on this winter's free-agent market. Both are over the age of 30. Both are seeking big-money, long-term deals. Phillies officials, while expressing respect for both pitchers, have privately rejected the idea of pursuing either this winter.

And, yet, on Day 2 of the winter meetings Tuesday, a breathless rumor surfaced that the Phillies were considering Arrieta. A Phillies official privately scoffed at the rumor, which surfaced a day after ESPN reported that Arrieta was seeking a deal of $180 million to $200 million.

Again, it's not that the Phillies can't afford Arrieta. It's that his age — he'll pitch at 32 next season — does not make him a great fit for a young Phillies team that still has miles to go on its development curve.

"There will come a time when we are one piece away and that one piece is a fill in the blank — starting pitcher, closer, cleanup hitter — and in that moment, when we feel that we are one piece away, or two pieces away, that's when we open up the wallet and we go do what we need to do," Klentak said Monday.

Now, if the Baltimore Orioles are serious about trading Manny Machado this winter, we expect the Phillies to be right in it. They love Machado and his age — 25 — fits nicely into the Phillies' plan of developing a young core. It's extremely doubtful that the Phillies would give up Sixto Sanchez or Scott Kingery, but they'd listen on other players, provided they could get Machado signed to an extension.

The Phillies are looking to add starting pitching this winter and they have lots of money. So linking Arrieta to the Phillies makes sense, especially for those interested in driving up his market. We don’t doubt that Arrieta's name may have come up in passing in conversations between the Phillies and his agent, Scott Boras. Maybe that qualifies as "considering." But this is a deal that ain't happening.

Phillies' opening day roster decisions not getting any easier

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Phillies' opening day roster decisions not getting any easier


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies are going down to the wire with their opening day roster decisions.

Manager Gabe Kapler & Co. got another look at pitcher Drew Hutchison and bench candidates Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn on Saturday in a game against the Tigers in Lakeland. None of the three hurt their chances of making the club in a 4-1 win over the Tigers.

Hutchison, a Lakeland native, pitched four scoreless innings. He gave up one hit and survived three walks. He struck out three, including Miguel Cabrera with runners on second and third with one out in the third inning. 

Hutchison, 27, made 74 starts from 2012 to 2016 with the Blue Jays and Pirates. He spent all of last season with the Pirates’ Triple A club and signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies last month. The Phillies have given the right-hander a good look and he has responded well. He has given up 12 hits and six runs in 19 2/3 innings for a 2.75 ERA. However, he has walked eight while registering 17 strikeouts.

Hutchison’s best chance to make the club could be as a long man in the bullpen. Ben Lively is also in the running for that job. Jake Thompson could also be in the picture. He is converting to the bullpen but has built up his pitch counts.

Valentin, a strong candidate for a utility job, started at first base with a borrowed mitt from Rhys Hoskins. Valentin has a first baseman’s mitt and a catcher's mitt on order. He could be the emergency third catcher. Valentin had a good game. He made a nice defensive play and had two hits and a walk. He has played seven positions this spring.

Quinn had two hits, scored a run and swiped three bases. He could open with the big club or be sent to Triple A for playing time. He has impressed Kapler with his electricity and figures to impact the big club at some point, maybe as soon as opening day.

Scott Kingery had two more hits, raising his average to .392 (20 for 51). He will likely open in Triple A but could be up by the third weekend of the season. Delaying his arrival until then would push his potential free agency back until after 2024.

• Rhys Hoskins stayed back in Clearwater and got a bunch of at-bats in a pair of minor-league games. He swatted a pair of opposite-field homers in a Triple A game.

The Phillies host the Orioles on Saturday. Nick Pivetta will start.

Phillies set date for Jake Arrieta's regular season debut

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Phillies set date for Jake Arrieta's regular season debut

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies have announced their plan for Jake Arrieta.

He will make his regular season debut on April 8 at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins.

That is a Sunday afternoon game.

Arrieta has a career ERA of 3.28 in day games as opposed to 3.77 in night games. Opposing batters have hit just .214 against him over his career in day games.

“He loves pitching in day games,” manager Gabe Kapler said in announcing the plan for Arrieta, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies on March 12.

Even though Arrieta showed up to camp in excellent shape and had been throwing on his own, the Phillies had promised to be cautious in getting him ready for the regular season. Arrieta will start Tuesday in Clearwater then pitch again on April 2, probably against minor leaguers in Clearwater, before his debut against Miami.

Arrieta had hoped to pitch during the first week of the season. The way things line up, he will miss just one start. The Phillies could stash him on the disabled list as he builds arm strength until they activate him before the April 8 game.

“Jake’s on board with this,” Kapler said. “He’s such a competitive dude, he wants to get out there immediately. But he has a strong understanding of the long view and what will keep him healthy and strong over the whole season and through the next three or four years. He understood that the best thing for his body is to build up a little more and get a nice slow, easy ramp and come out firing for us on April 8 against the Marlins.”

Arrieta has made four lifetime starts against Miami. He is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in those games. Over 26 innings, he’s allowed four runs and 16 hits while walking four and striking out 26.

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. The order of the rotation is unclear after that, though the Phillies could get by with four starters until Arrieta is ready. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez will be in the rotation. Zach Eflin, Ben Lively or Drew Hutchison could round out the rotation during the first seven games. Lively or Hutchison could also work out of the bullpen.

Pivetta will start against the Orioles on Sunday.