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The Phillies signed Jake Arrieta and are now a popular playoff ‘sleeper’

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Monday morning’s Say Hey, Baseball includes the Phillies becoming everyone’s favorite sleeper, Ichiro’s first game back with the Mariners, and another reason to fear the Yankees.

League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This painfully slow offseason is getting closer to being over, whether all of the free agents have signed or not. One more of those free agents — the biggest remaining, in fact — came off the board Sunday, though.

Jake Arrieta agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the Phillies for $75 million, and he has the opportunity to opt out after his second year if he so chooses. It’s not a terribly surprising move, besides how long it took, as the righty and the Phillies have been connected for what feels like an eternity. There were other suitors, like the Nationals, Cubs, and Brewers, rumored all winter, but it always seemed as if Philadelphia was the favorite. With the signing and a few other moves this winter, the Phillies have spent as they promised they would, and they immediately became a chic pick to jump into a surprise playoff berth in the coming season.

Putting aside that we officially cannot call them a “sleeper” pick anymore (now that literally everyone declared them a sleeper within 15 minutes of this Arrieta signing), the Phillies are an intriguing team to watch. After a relatively long and painful rebuild, the big-market club spent on a handful of free agents this winter and should be able to continue doing so even more in years to come. This winter, in addition to Arrieta, the NL East team brought in veterans Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek, and Tommy Hunter to complement a roster full of exciting, if unproven, talented youngsters. The question is if this was really enough for them to make the leap this quickly, or if we’re just too excited after one big free agent signing?

It’s undeniable they have some real talent on their roster. With Arrieta in tow, they now have an enviable one-two punch atop their rotation with Aaron Nola as well as some upside lower down in Vince Velazquez. The bullpen has Neshek and Hunter as reliable veterans along with Hector Neris as a capable closer. The offense is where it really gets exciting, as Santana is surrounded by young hitters like Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, and eventually top prospect Scott Kingery. Even with all of that talent, I’m not sure it’ll come together quickly enough to catch wildcard contenders like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Arizona, Colorado, San Francisco, or even New York if they stay healthy, but there’s no doubt Philadelphia is at least moving in the right direction.