Extension Projection: Jake Arrieta

Extension Projection: Jake Arrieta
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Extension Projection: Jake Arrieta

The Cubs made front page news last offseason when they signed starting pitcher Jon Lester to a 6 year $155 million contract - assumedly the new ace of the staff. What they didn't expect, is that by mid June, the man at the top of their rotation would be 29 year old Jake Arrieta, whom they avoided arbitration with at a meager $3.63M salary for the 2015 season. After 7+ years in the Orioles organization, the Cubs acquired Arrieta in July 2013, signing him to a little more than the minimum salary for the 2014 season. He showed signs of improvement last year, especially in terms of his live fastball, but has been nothing short of dominant in 2015.

With two years of arbitration eligibility still left, the Cubs have a bit of leverage in his short term future. But should he finish out the season on his current pace, it's almost certain that a long-term extension is forthcoming. We'll assess Arrieta statistically, comparing him to other top pitchers in the game who've recently signed extensions to formulate a projection for what his next contract might look like.

Comparable Starting Pitchers
To generate a prediction the Spotrac team determined that the following pitchers were viable targets to use in comparing with Arrieta. The key was to locate players with similar numbers, who signed their extension around his current age (29). To determine a more likely starting point for our numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract breakdown listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Zack Greinke  6 $147,000,000 $24,500,000 29
Max Scherzer  7 $210,000,000 $30,000,000 30
Justin Verlander 7 $180,000,000 $25,714,286 30
Cole Hamels  6 $144,000,000 $24,000,000 29
Averages 6.75 $175,750,000 $17,575,000 29.5
At 29 years old, Arrieta is younger than a few of our variables were at the time of their signing. We'll adjust the contracts to the age of 29 to provide a better scope for our base prediction.

Related:  View the list of Top Average Paid Starting Pitchers in MLB
Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
6 $157,914,747 $26,319,124

Statistical Comparisons
We'll assess our variables and Arrieta statistically over the two seasons prior to their signing using the following categories: Games Started, Innings Pitched per Game, Strikeouts per Game, ERA, WHIP, and Wins per Year.
Player Starts/162 IP/G SO/G Wins/YR ERA WHIP
Zack Greinke 
(2011-12, KC)
34 6.2 6.47 16 3.63 1.198
Max Scherzer
(2013-14, DET)
34 6.7 7.58 20 3.02 1.074
Justin Verlander
(2011-12, DET)
34 7.32 7.29 20 2.52 .987
Cole Hamels
(2011-12, PHI)
34 6.91 6.58 16 2.92 1.055
AVERAGES 34 6.78 6.98 18 3.02 1.07
Jake Arrieta
(2014-15, CHC)
35 6.37 6.68 14 2.31 .963
% Change 2.94% -6.08% -4.30% -22.22% 23.57% 10.71%
Median Prime % Change -.68%
Average Prime % Change: .77%
The numbers are shockingly close across the baord here, with the exception of wins (a somehwat unfair assessment based on the quality of the Cubs as a team in 2013). We'll factor both of these figures into our work below.


Length of the Contract
At 29 years old age is a bit of a red flag - but recent signings have shown that franchises are handing out the money regardless. The average length of our variables was 6.75 years. We'll play it safe and round down to a 6 year extension for Arrieta.

Value of the Contract
Is one big year enough to show he's worth a 9-figure contract? Recent history says yes. The only force working against Arrieta here is his arbitration eligibility. If they want to, the Cubs can lock him in on a 1 year (gigantic) tender, similar to what the Tigers have done with Max Scherzer and David Price in the past two seasons. This would give them 1 more year to decide if he's truly this level of pitcher, or if 2015 was a mere fluke.

Our base contract for this analysis brought forth an annual average just north of $26.3M, putting him 3rd among all active SP (just ahead of teammate Jon Lester). With extremely small prime percentages to factor in based on stastical comparisons, this number appears to be solidified as Arrieta's current market value.

Based on calculations, Jake Arrieta's current market value projects him at:

Spotrac's Prediction: 6 years, $157,985,000
Average annual salary $26,330,833

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