Three consecutive NLCS appearances, two NL Central titles, and a World Series championship... the first in 108 years.
But when the Philadelphia Phillies unveiled new ace Jake Arrieta on Tuesday, the big moment came along the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida, almost a month into spring training, 16 days from Opening Day - a reality that added another layer of intrigue and altered the typical atmosphere of these ceremonies, turning parts of Arrieta's introduction into something more resembling a pep rally.
Arrieta has been one of MLB's best pitchers since 2015. "But what we can promise is that we're going to have conviction, we're going to fight, and we're going to win at the end of the day". He was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA a year ago. In 2015, Arrieta posted a 22-6 record with a 1.77 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award while averaging 94.6 miles per hour on the radar gun. A rebuild doesn't mean you can't win now. Arrieta could pitch the second game on the 30th, or the Phillies could push back his season debut. The team has been rebuilding the past few years with young prospects but has begun to sign veterans so they can start being competitive while developing young players. He said he has a similar feeling about the Phillies. "I feel like we'll probably sit down and game plan and decide how quickly I get into a game and how many pitches I'm able to throw right away and develop a program to get me ready for the opening week of the season because that's exactly what I intend to do".
Arrieta was 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in five seasons in Chicago after starting his career in Baltimore. The Cubs showed little interest in re-signing him and moved on with Yu Darvish (six years, $126 million) last month. Aaron Nola, the Phillies' top returning starter, is 24 years old. Opponents logged a.283/.364/.528 slash line vs. his cutter, compared to.186/.239/.271 in 2015. I looked myself in the mirror, as well as my two-year-old son and pregnant wife knowing in my heart that everything was about to change.
One of the marquee free agents in this year's class, Arrieta has had a surprisingly long offseason. Boras said Arrieta included the Phillies on his initial wish list of teams at the start of the free-agent season in November.
"This is a special situation for me", Arrieta said. "I think there's talent that needs experience, refinement, attitude, confidence, and certainly when you bring in players like Jake, you've put the cream in the coffee and it's ready to drink".
Familiarity helped play a role in bringing Arrieta to Philadelphia. Joe Jordan, now Philadelphia's player development director, selected Arrieta out of Texas Christian University in the fifth round of the 2007 draft while with the Orioles.