Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported last week that the Nationals could be the leading team in the underwhelming Arrieta sweepstakes. Heyman listed the Nats at 2-1 odds to gran the former Cy Young Award winner. Now, Bob Nightengale reports the Nationals ‘remain engaged’ with the soon-to-be 32-year-old.
The Washington #Nats remain engaged with Jake Arrieta and continue to monitor market as he remains top prize.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 28, 2018
Arrieta is now the top free agent starter left on the ever-so-slowly moving market. With Yu Darvish now a member of the Cubs, Arrieta could be the big fish for the Nats to grab and counter the Cubs’ super rotation of Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester. Should the Nats make a move for Arrieta, he would join Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez to form another formidable pitching staff that would compete with the Cubs in a potential playoff series.
An issue for the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo would be payroll. Darvish earned $126 million with his contract, so Arrieta could demand a similar paycheck. That type of contract would put the Nationals over the luxury tax threshold, although with Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gonzalez hitting free agency next winter, the luxury tax would be reset fairly quickly. The current core of Nationals likely have one more chance to make a playoff run, and Arrieta could provide the final piece.
Arrieta experienced a slight downtick in production in 2017, finishing the season with a 3.53 ERA and 4.16 FIP. However, he turned it on in the postseason, surrendering just one earned run over 10 2⁄3 innings.