Blue Jays: Is Jake Arrieta worth the potential price tag?

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Jake Arrieta
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Jake Arrieta /

I’ll admit, when I saw the news that the Toronto Blue Jays have checked in on Jake Arrieta and Arrieta’s agent, I didn’t shake my head like I did with the J.D. Martinez rumour. I was actually quite giddy and dreamed of the possibilities of the Blue Jays landing Arrieta should it get that far. But then I thought of the likely price tag for Jake Arrieta and my enthusiasm cooled a bit.

Blue Jays fans would remember that Jake Arrieta‘s career began with the Baltimore Orioles where he flirted with flashes of being dominant. He even started Opening Day with the Orioles one season but was never able to put it all together. The Orioles ended up adding Jake Arrieta as a piece to a trade that was centred with reliever Pedro Strop going to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman. How lopsided that trade would look just a season after the trade.

Arrieta was instantly inserted into a bad Chicago Cubs rotation and the results got better almost instantaneously compared to that with the Orioles. It only would keep getting better the following 2 seasons:

2014 – 156.2 IP, 2.53 ERA, 2.26 FIP, 9.59 K/9, 2.36 BB/9, 0.29 HR/9, 5.0 fWAR

2015 – 229.0 IP, 1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 9.28 K/9, 1.89 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9, 7.3 fWAR

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

The 2015 season for Jake Arrieta saw a stretch where his performance in the 2nd half of the season which ranked among the best in MLB history. In 107.1 innings, he had a 0.75 ERA and 113 strikeouts. He threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers and ended up winning the National League Cy Young award.

I don’t think it was possible to be as dominant as Arrieta was for a 2nd straight season, and though he wasn’t as good, he was still very good. He had a 3.10 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 8.67 K/9, and 3.47 BB/9. The ERA and FIP went up while the strikeouts and walks went up, which aren’t good trends. He also lost a tick on his velocity, but nothing alarming. It was likely the effects of a workload he had never experienced caught up to Arrieta a bit in 2016 though he was still quite good.

2017 was quite a different story for Arrieta, who for the first time as a Chicago Cub, struggled. The 3.53 ERA was a bit more flattering for Arrieta as his FIP was 4.16. The home run ball spiked going to 1.23 HR/9 and the ground ball percentage went down from 52.6% to 45.1%. It’s no surprise that Arrieta struggled as his velocity dipped from 94.3 MPH on the fastball to 92.6. Quite a steep velocity decline for a guy who needs the velocity to make his stuff move and continue to blow it by guys.

2017 was not good at all for Jake Arrieta but that may not affect his market very much as he hits free agency for the first time in his career. He is likely to still get paid like an ace, which he may be able to get back to ace status, but I think he’s likelier to be a solid 2-3 going forward. That could actually be exactly what the Blue Jays need behind a healthy Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman after 2018 when J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada are likely gone. You could pencil Arrieta in for multiple seasons after 2018 and you’d have a great 1-2-3.

The price tag is what worries me. He’s going to get paid quite well. MLBTR projects Arrieta to get around a 4 year, $100 million deal ($25 million average per year). That price tag is pretty high for a guy who struggled in 2017. It’s still likely that Arrieta gets that money because of his name and how recently he was dominant. If the price tag is that high, there were too many warning signs to make me want to give Arrieta such a contract. However, if the price per year comes down to a bit below $25 million per year ($20-$23 per), then I would take the gamble on Arrieta especially given what he could potentially be.

Next: Blue Jays fishing in the free agent deep end so far

My excitement on Jake Arrieta was quite high when I saw that the Toronto Blue Jays. I can picture how good he would look in a Blue Jays uniform. There is a good argument for actively pursuing him and hopefully signing him but an equal argument for not going after him at the projected price tag considering how bad he was in 2017. The excitement cooled a bit after truly thinking about it. Is he worth the potential price tag of around $25 million per year? I don’t think so. But I’d be a lot more interested if it’s below $23 million per season or so. Regardless, a signing of Jake Arrieta would be exciting and fun to see how he can potentially bounce back in 2018.