The Phillies have agreed to a three-year deal, $75 million deal with free-agent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia and USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reported first on Sunday. The frontloaded deal will pay him $30 million in 2018, $25 million in 2019, and $20 million in 2020, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, and its completion is pending a physical.
Heyman was the first to report that the two sides were close to a deal, and the signing comes on the heels of Nightengale’s report earlier Sunday that the Phillies were the favorite to acquire Arrieta’s services.
Arrieta will have the opportunity to opt out of the contract after 2019, though the Phillies can void the opt-out and keep Arrieta by triggering a two-year club option that would pay him a $20 million base salary in 2021 and 2022. His salary for those years could rise to $25 million if he achieves a games-started incentive during the first two years of the deal, and it could rise to $30 million if he achieves incentives based on how he places in Cy Young voting. If the Phillies trigger the two-year option for 2021-22 and Arrieta achieves all the necessary incentives, the deal could max out at $135 million.
Arrieta, 32, won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and has been one of the majors’ most consistent starters over the past four seasons. He took a step back in 2017, posting a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 30 starts while giving up a career-high 23 home runs and experiencing a drop-off in fastball velocity, but he was still solid in relation to the rest of the league — factoring in park and league adjustment, he had a well-above average 123 ERA+.
Arrieta joins Aaron Nola as the co-ace of a Phillies rotation that will be extremely top-heavy, with none of Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, or Vince Velazquez looking to project as legitimate top-of-the-rotation starters at any point. That group figures to get substantially better over the next few seasons, though, as star prospects like Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina arrive in the majors.
Arrieta’s $25 million average annual value will be the eighth-highest for a pitcher in major-league history, following Zack Greinke, David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Roger Clemens, Jon Lester, and Justin Verlander. His addition is the second major long-term investment the Phillies have made this offseason; they signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract in December.