With the regular season little more than two weeks away, the last of the big four free agents found a team Sunday.
Pitcher Jake Arrieta agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies on a three-year contract worth $75 million, according to multiple reports. The deal is contingent on Arrieta passing a physical examination and all but wraps the winter of the great free-agent freeze.
None of the players widely considered as the top four — Arrieta, pitcher Yu Darvish, first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez — had signed when training camps opened last month. It is uncertain how soon Arrieta will be ready to make his first start this season.
In 2016, after the Washington Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $175-million contract, Arrieta said he would not be inclined to grant his Chicago Cubs a discount in dollars or years.
“Aces get seven years,” he said then.
Arrieta got three years, but he still got one of the most lucrative deals of the winter. There were five players who got at least $75 million this winter: Arrieta, Darvish, Hosmer, Martinez and outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
The bottom might have fallen out of the market this year, but only four players got at least $75 million last winter: pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen and outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler.
The bellwether for how much this winter’s market reflects a temporary correction or a new reality comes next winter, when such stars as Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Andrew Miller can hit free agency.
In the meantime, the late results of this winter’s market could make some teams want a do-over.
The San Diego Padres, for instance, signed Hosmer to an eight-year contract for $144 million, anointing him as the leader for a rising group of touted prospects.
The Phillies committed $135 million to Arrieta and a first baseman, Carlos Santana.
Arrieta and Santana are on three-year contracts, so they might have been gone from San Diego by the time the Padres won. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants aren’t getting younger, so the Padres might have played this exactly right.
Still, the Padres could have had Arrieta and Santana, for less than Hosmer alone. Their projected opening day starter: Clayton Richard.
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