Phillies agree to multi-year deal with Jake Arrieta

Phillies agree to multi-year deal with Jake Arrieta

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Phillies have their pitcher.

And he’s one of the best in the business.

Ramp-up the rebuild. Raise the expectations. Jake Arrieta is coming to Philadelphia.

The Phillies on Sunday reached an agreement in principle with the free-agent right-hander, according to multiple baseball sources. The multi-year deal is contingent on the pitcher passing a physical exam this week.

The Phillies have not confirmed the deal. USA Today reported that it would be a three-year deal worth $75 million. Arrieta will become the Phillies’ second big free-agent signing this winter. They signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million in December.

The Phillies forfeited a draft pick (second-round) to sign Santana. They will lose their third-round pick for signing Arrieta. The Phillies have been very protective of their draft picks during their rebuild. Signing Arrieta is an indication that club officials believe the rebuild is nearing an end and contention is close.

Arrieta, 32, was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2015 while winning 22 games and posting a 1.77 ERA for the Chicago Cubs. He won 16 games the following year to help the Cubs win the World Series. He went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA in 30 starts for the Cubs in 2017. He has averaged 30 starts the last four seasons but suffered a much talked-about dip in fastball velocity the last two.

Arrieta will lead a Phillies staff that includes Aaron Nola, who has already been named Phillies’ opening day starter. Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez are also expected to be in the starting five. Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter and Ben Lively are also in the mix for a spot.

Arrieta and Yu Darvish were the two big pitching prizes on this year’s free-agent market. Ironically, the Cubs pursued and signed Darvish to a six-year, $126 million deal, while Arrieta walked.

Heading into the offseason, the Phillies were very clear in their desire to add starting pitching. However, club officials distanced themselves from Arrieta and Darvish because of the length of deals the pitchers were seeking. Phillies officials are wary of lengthy deals for pitchers over 30.

Arrieta hit the market in November reportedly seeking a deal that would push seven years and $180 to $200 million. The Phillies weren’t about to play in that realm, but they made it clear to Arrieta’s representatives that they’d be open to something in the three-year range. Months later, with spring training well underway, Arrieta’s market came down to that term and now the Phillies got their man.

Similarly, the Phils played the same waiting game with Santana and got him on a three-year deal. New manager Gabe Kapler has made “Be Bold” his motto for the 2018 season. General manager Matt Klentak’s patience, and ownership’s deep pockets, resulted in the unions with Santana and Arrieta and that will make it a lot easier to be bold.

Neither of these deals are cheap. The Phillies have long made it clear that length of contract is more of a concern with them than money. So, in the final tally, they spent $169 million this winter on Arrieta, Santana and relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, all free agents.

Will these signings lead the Phillies back to October baseball for the first time since 2011?

Opening day is 18 days away. Answers will soon begin to unfold.

Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff

USA Today Images

Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will be without Mark Leiter Jr.'s versatile arm for about six weeks. An MRI performed Monday on the pitcher's sore right forearm showed a strained flexor muscle.

Leiter had a good chance to make the opening day roster as a long reliever or fifth starter. With him out, the Phillies could be in need of a swingman.

Could Ben Lively be that guy?

"I can pitch anywhere," the competitive 26-year-old right-hander said. "I don't care. Wherever they want, I'll pitch."

Lively did nothing to hurt his chances of making the club as he turned in five shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in a rain-shortened 2-0 win Tuesday afternoon. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out four. He was particularly impressive in the fourth inning, striking out Justin Smoak and retiring Russell Martin on a tapper back to the mound with runners on second and third.

"I just tried to bear down and stick to the game plan," Lively said. "There's too much technology around here now. We have all the heat maps and we talked about it before the game and I just stayed with it."

Lively made 15 starts with the big club last year and 10 of them were quality starts in which he went at least six innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs. Lively doesn't have power stuff. He gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings last season and struck out just 5.3 per nine. Management would love to see some improvement in those areas — i.e., more of what he displayed on Tuesday.

"Lively was strong today," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He came out and attacked the zone.

"One of the things that is important is that we see some swing and misses with Lives and we saw a couple of bat-missing moments today that were, to me, a big deal. He induces quick contact, which is important, but we also like to see the ability to miss bats and we saw that on a couple of occasions, (Curtis) Granderson being most notable."

Granderson struck out twice against Lively.

"We look at past tendencies from recent years," Lively said of his pregame study. "The main one we looked at today was Granderson. He has a low slugging percentage on the outer half (of the plate), so we pounded him on the outer half the whole time."

With Jerad Eickhoff headed to the disabled list and Nick Pivetta likely to join Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation, Lively appears to be vying for the fifth starter's job with Zach Eflin and non-roster invite Drew Hutchison. But he and Hutchison also could be vying for a long man's job in the bullpen.

By mid-April, the Phillies will probably have an eight-man bullpen. But they could break with an extra reliever because they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

However it shakes out, Lively did not hurt his chances of landing some role with his performance Tuesday.

Roster moves
The Phillies sent catcher Logan Moore, infielder Mitch Walding and outfielder Andrew Pullin to minor-league camp.

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

Photo: NBCSP

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has been noticeably absent from game action in minor-league camp.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, says there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"He had the flu and he's over it now," Jordan said. "He's fine now. No issues. He's 100 percent."

Jordan said Sanchez got up to 30 pitches in a bullpen session this week.

"He let it go with all his pitches," Jordan said.

Jordan added that Sanchez would pitch in a game in the next few days. He added that Sanchez would open the season on time with the Clearwater club, though his innings will be watched at the outset until he's fully stretched out.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958.