The Colorado Rockies have a young starting pitching staff but they could be interested in added a veteran toward the front of the rotation.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (h/t MLBTradeRumors.com), the Rockies are interested in free agent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. Arrieta has spent the past 4 1/2 seasons with the Chicago Cubs after a lackluster start of his career in a Baltimore Orioles uniform.
In 3 1/2 seasons in Baltimore, he went 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA (77 ERA+) in 69 games (63 of which were starts). In his 4 1/2 seasons in Chicago, he went 68-31 with a sparkling 2.73 ERA (147 ERA+) in 128 starts. Between 2014 and 2016, he ranked in the top nine in the National League Cy Young Award voting in each season (including winning the award in 2015). In 2015, he was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA in 33 starts. Even last season (when he was not as sharp), he was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA in 30 starts.
What Arrieta could get in a contract
According to MLB Trade Rumors top 50 free agent predictions list from early this month, they believe that Arrieta is a fourth-best free agent on the market this offseason. They also predicted that Arrieta would get a four-year, $100 million contract from the Milwaukee Brewers.
I would suspect that would be on the top end of Arrieta’s market. While Arrieta had excellent seasons from 2014 to 2016, he was not as good last year. Also, it must be noted that Arrieta will turn 32 in March so he will be on the back-nine of his career (if he already isn’t there already).
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As Cafardo notes, it’s not known how interested in Arrieta the Rockies (or any of the the other teams he mentions) really are. If I had to offer him a contract, I would not go more than three years and more than $22 million per season with him. Potentially, I would add on a team option, mutual option, or a vesting option for a fourth season. In other words, to fulfill the fourth year of the contract, he would have to pitch well in the third season. I would say this for a few reasons:
a) his age
b) his 2017 season
c) how he would pitch in Coors Field (he has a 0-2 record in two starts at Coors with an ERA of 14.54). Obviously, the ERA would come down if he had a wider sample size but it’s still something to consider.
To get a contract in this territory, I would suspect that this will be after Christmas. This is the point where players and agents start to panic that they won’t be signed so they are a bit more willing to negotiate. The prime example of this in the 2016-17 offseason was with the Cleveland Indians and Edwin Encarnacion. He turned down an extension from the Blue Jays for 4 years and $80 million; he wanted 5 years and $110 million, he got 3 years, $60 million and a team option for a fourth year. He agreed to the contract on Christmas Eve and finalized it on January 5.
In other words, patience may have to be a virtue for the Rockies to sign a player like Arrieta.