A little more than 24-hours prior to rumors of Jake Arrieta signing with the Phillies started to fly around the baseball world, rumors of another signing started to leak out. Minnesota, a team that has made some interesting late winter moves, was reportedly close to signing Lance Lynn, who was earlier looked at as a runner-up prize for teams that missed out on Arrieta.
The number of years and the money that were being mentioned for Lynn were far below what he was expected to garner even at this late stage of free agency. Instead of the three-years and possibly $15-million that had been floating around for a good chunk of the winter, it was down to one-year and $12-million.
While players like Mike Moustakas, Logan Morrison and Jonathan Lucroy were expected to get at least two seasons on their free agent contract, they had also signed for just one year and shortly after the Lynn signing, Carlos Gonzalez also settled for a one-year deal. But there was one significant difference between all of those players and Lance Lynn. The previous players were all position players. The low-ball figures on a pitcher like Lynn showed that the market for pitching was close to completely tanking. That showed that there was no way for Arrieta to get a guaranteed five years on a new deal.
At the start of free agency, Lynn was projected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of four years and $56-million. Those numbers slid, as did most free agent projections, and on Saturday they appeared to be sliding from bargain basement numbers to clearance rack numbers.
Suddenly came word that not only were the Phillies the front-runners for Arrieta, but agent Scott Boras was looking for a pen to get Arrieta to sign the deal to pitch in Philadelphia. Waiting any longer was going to risk Arrieta losing more years and/or money on a new deal, especially with the warts of his falling velocity and numbers over the past couple of seasons.
Had Lynn been able to get something in the neighborhood of two or three years and around the expected $15-million, it’s unlikely that Boras would have settled on three years, $75-million when he did.
Actually, the deal between Arrieta and the Phillies could become somewhat of a model for the future. It guarantees Arrieta three years at a good price, but also allows him to skip town after two seasons if he’s pitching well enough to warrant more years and money on the open market. It also protects the Phillies in that if he’s not pitching well, they don’t have a long-term deal to wait their way through as we would all watch Arrieta struggle. They’re also protected in that if Arrieta is pitching well after those first two years and they want to keep him, they get first crack simply by exercising two more years on his contract that would guarantee him another $50-million.
Odds are that the Phillies won’t exercise the option for those final two years unless Arrieta is completely lights out. By that time, it’s likely that the young pitchers on the Phillies staff and those coming behind them in the upper levels of the minors will have shown what type of pitchers they can be. It says here that enough of them will be good enough that the Phillies will reinvest the money they would spend on Arrieta’s extra seasons into signing young players long-term and maybe adding more of a back of the rotation type free agent starter either through trade or free agency. That’s providing all goes well with the development of the young pitchers, which is always a stab in the dark.