The Dodgers may be in the market to add a starting pitcher since it’s almost a given that they add at least one starting pitcher every winter. The front office loves depth, and they always seem to find a way to use every starter they have.
On the market, this year is a very top heavy free agent class which is due in large part to the fact that there just aren’t many good starters available. The top two starting pitchers on the market are Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. After that, the tier of quality degrades, and there are starting pitchers like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn.
Yu Darvish is not popular amongst Dodger fans after his two abysmal World Series starts but the Dodgers may bring him back if the price is right. Given that Darvish is viewed as the number one starter on the market he is probably going to get money in the Zack Greinke range. I doubt the Dodgers are looking to drop that much money on any player this winter. The other big fish on the market is Jake Arrieta.
Throughout his career, Jake Arrieta has been a nightmare for the Dodgers. Not only did he beat the Dodgers in the NLCS this year but he has even thrown a no-hitter against the Dodgers. While Jake Arrieta has the ideal pitchers frame at 6’4 225 pounds, he has been slowed by injuries since his breakout 2015 season. Arrieta has seen his innings dip from 229 innings in 2015, to 197 innings in 2016. This year Arrieta’s amount of innings was even less as he threw 168 innings for the Cubs. This is not a trend you want to see for a pitcher who is going to get big bucks thrown his way.
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During Arrieta’s dominant 2015 his fastball average 95 miles per hour but this season his fastball only averaged 92 miles per hour. His agent Scott Boras even commented on Arrieta’s dipping velocity which should scare the Dodgers away. Although he is getting older, he is still young enough at age 31 where there should not be a steady decline in his fastball speed. Whether it was injury or just physical decline, this is another disturbing trend.
As a result of Arrieta’s velocity decrease, his strikeout numbers have also declined over the past three seasons. This season Arrieta finished with 163 strikeouts which is the lowest of his career for a season in which he started at least twenty games. Due to his power stuff declining this season Arrieta allowed a 235 average against. That is significantly higher than 2016 when he allowed a 194 average against, and 2015 when he only allowed a 185 average against. This is the third area of decline for Arrieta and another reason the Dodgers need to avoid signing him.
In addition to a decline in velocity and decline supported by stats, there is the fact that Arrieta will be 32 years old when the regular season starts in April. Arrieta is most likely going to get a four to a five-year deal which will keep him signed through his age 35 or 36 seasons. If Arrieta’s fastball has dipped almost four miles per hour already, what will it look like in four to five years? It would be different if Arrieta were an off-speed pitcher like Rich Hill, but he isn’t and relies on his power stuff.
Arrieta will also get money north of 18-20 million per year which is far too much money for him. While Arrieta is a decent number two starter right now, he profiles more as a middle to back end of the rotation starter right now. Paying 20 million a year for a declining middle of the rotation starter is too rich, even for a team like the Dodgers. The Dodgers are better off sticking with the starting pitchers they currently have or signing another starting pitcher. The Dodgers should avoid Arrieta at all costs.