In what was one of the best buy-low decisions Jed Hoyer has ever made, Jake Arrieta was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Chicago Cubs in July 2013. The enigmatic right-hander was packaged with Pedro Strop in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Four years later, Arrieta has a Cy Young Award from 2015, a World Series ring, and is the ex-owner of one of baseball’s best beards.
Now the question becomes, what is Arrieta worth as a free agent? Heading into his age 31 season in 2017, Jake signed a one-year deal for $15.6 million, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts a four-year, $100 million deal for the righty. With probably one rotation spot still open, does this kind of deal make sense for the Yankees?
In my opinion, no. A deep dive into Jake’s 2017 reveals his free agency to be a likely landmine for the team that eventually bites and signs him. The first warning sign for Arrieta is a drop in his average fastball velocity, from 94.6 mph in 2015, to 93.7 mph in 2016, all the way to 92.1 mph in 2017. This drop in velocity has corresponded with a sharp rise in his flyball rate, which was 22.8% in 2015, 27.9% in 2016 and ballooned to 34.4% of all batted balls in 2017. In an era where players are deliberately hitting balls in the air, and a division full of launching pad ballparks, Arrieta would likely be a disaster in the Bronx.
Coupling Arrieta’s batted ball problems with his process issues makes him an even less attractive pitcher. His strikeouts have dropped in both seasons since his Cy Young year, which is extremely problematic when hitters are more and more willing to accept a punchout. Walking too many batters and a consistently climbing HR/9 rate mean his FIP is ranked alongside pitchers like Tanner Roark, Clayton Richard and Jaime Garcia, none of whom would deserve a nine-figure contract in today’s market.
Arrieta is a Scott Boras client, and although Boras isn’t the giant he used to be, he still has an uncanny ability to deliver above-market deals for his clients. Some team might be silly enough to give Jake Arrieta a hundred-million dollar contract, but that team should not be the New York Yankees.