SARASOTA, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has asked everybody in the Phillies organization to think boldly and behave boldly.
The Phillies made a remarkably bold move Sunday, particularly for a team that still considered itself building for the future. Sources told that the Phillies and Jake Arrieta have agreed in principle to a multi-year contract, pending a physical.'s Jon Paul Morosi reports it's a three-year contract worth $75 million -- Arrieta will make $30 million in the first year, $25 million in the second and $20 million in the third -- and that Arrieta can opt out of the contract after 2019.
The Phillies can void that opt out, though, if they exercise a two-year extension that starts at $20 million per season, according to Morosi, but can reach as much as $30 million per season based on games started and Cy Young Award finishes.
In that case, the contract would be worth as much as $135 million over five seasons.
Arrieta's arrival changes things for the Phillies. Kapler said at the beginning of Spring Training that he thought the Phillies had the opportunity to "shock people." They might not shock anybody anymore.
Arrieta, 32, won the National League Cy Young Award with the Cubs in 2015, going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. He has since remained one of the best starters in baseball over the past two seasons, going 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA in '16 and 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA in '17. He has made at least 30 starts in each of the past three seasons. If he maintains that level of production, he could put the Phillies in the thick of postseason contention for the first time since 2011, a season earlier than the organization anticipated.
Sources indicated for weeks that the Phillies were unwilling to guarantee anything more than three seasons because analytics about Arrieta's 2017 season raised concerns about a long-term contract.
So the Phillies exercised patience as the calendar moved closer and closer to Opening Day and got pretty much what they wanted.
"We're always trying to improve the team, but we've got to do it a way that makes sense now and next year," Phillies owner John Middleton told in late February. "We don't want to sacrifice something significant in the future by making a short-term move. Whether it's a trade or a signing, if we get the deal we think is right, we'll do it. We'll pull the trigger. Money is zero object. No object whatsoever."
In other words, the Phillies were fine paying major money for a player, if the years made sense.
The salary in each year of the two-year extension will be increased from $20 million if Arrieta reaches a certain number of starts in each of the first two seasons. According to Morosi, if he starts 25 games, he'll get $1 million toward his salary in both 2021 and '22. If he starts 27, he'll get $1.5 million toward each year's salary, 29 starts will get him $2 million and 31 starts will get him $2.5 million.
If Arrieta finishes in the top 5 of Cy Young voting in each of the first two seasons, the salaries of the two-year extension can increase to $30 million, per Morosi.
The average annual value of Arrieta's deal ($25 million) was the highest signed by any player since the end of last season. Carlos Santana's average annual value ($20 million) is the fifth highest.
Because Arrieta rejected the Cubs' qualifying offer last year, the Phillies will forfeit their third-highest Draft pick, plus $500,000 in international signing bonus money. They already surrendered their second-highest pick, plus $500,000 in international signing bonus money, when they signed Santana.
If Arrieta maintains his recent level of performance for the next two or three seasons and helps the Phillies return to the postseason, it will be a small price to pay. He immediately gives the Phils a solid 1-2 punch atop the rotation with Aaron Nola. The rest of the five-man rotation figures to be filled out with Vince VelasquezNick Pivettaand Jerad EickhoffZach EflinMark Leiter Jr.Ben LivelyJake Thompson and non-roster invitee Drew Hutchinson had been competing for the team's No. 5 job before the agreement with Arrieta.
It is unclear if Arrieta will be ready to pitch the first week of the regular season. First, he must pass his physical. Then he must get to Phillies camp. It is unclear how much the veteran right-hander has been throwing before agreeing to the deal. But even if his debut is delayed a week or two, the Phillies made themselves much more formidable in the National League East. Todd Zolecki /

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