Arrieta owns an ERA of 6.63 in his last seven starts and had a rough outing against the New York Mets on Saturday, lasting just four and a third innings while giving up 11 hits and hitting three batters. His changeup command was non-existent, causing a conflict with Mets third baseman Todd Frazier.
The Phillies already need rotation improvement. Their starting pitching has been flaky at best, with Aaron Nola up and down, and Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta struggling. Arrieta was added before last season as a veteran who should be solid, but he hasn’t been. As Rosenthal reports, the hope was that the surgery could be held back until the winter. That seems unlikely if he continues to pitch like he has in recent weeks.
That’s not to mention that Arrieta – a former Cy Young winner – has an opt out at the end of this year. With his results and injury concerns, it’s very unlikely he walks away from $20 million guaranteed next year.
So, what can the Phillies do?
Well, having made win-now moves in the offseason, it seems likely they will continue to go for it in the second half and could trade for more than one starter.
The right answer, though, might be to hold off.
The Phillies have already depleted their farm. Bleacher Report ranked the Phillies’ farm as just the 20th-best in the Majors back in February. Sixto Sanchez was sent to the Marlins to land J.T. Realmuto, leaving third baseman Alec Bohm as their only top 100 prospect.
Acquiring starters with team control, such as the Tigers’ Matthew Boyd, will be hard without tearing the farm apart. Bohm must be close to untouchable, and the Phillies will likely have to give up multiple other prospects to trade for a pitcher like Boyd.
Rentals would be an option – Madison Bumgarner obviously springs to mind – but is that really a good idea when the Phillies are 6.5 games out of first?
Saturday’s loss to the Mets saw the resurgent Nationals overtake Philadelphia. While they are just a game back of the wildcard, that race is going to be fiercely competitive with whoever doesn’t win the Central, the Diamondbacks and Rockies all eyeing up a spot.
Arrieta’s performances and the news of possible surgery change the equation too. The Phillies need two, or maybe even three, starting pitchers before the 31st July trade deadline. The prospect cost of that, even if they’re all cheapish rentals, would be significant.
The Phillies have been all-in for the last 12 months. This is the time to rein in that approach, even if it means missing out on the postseason. They’re not in a good spot right now, and it’ll take significant prospect investment to get into a notably better position. Now is the time to stick rather than twist, and retain assets for a push in 2020.