MILWAUKEE-- The Milwaukee Brewers are reportedly showing interest in free agent starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, per ESPN's Jon Morosi.
The 31-year-old, 2015 Cy Young winner pitched to a 3.53 ERA in 2017, the worst total over his four-year career with the division rival Cubs, and his only full season in which he did not receive a single Cy Young vote.
He also struggled in terms of walks and home runs, falling in the bottom 30 of qualified pitchers in terms of walks and home runs per nine innings pitched.
However, he ended the season on a hot stretch, holding a 2.26 ERA since the start of July, and producing a combined 0.71 ERA during his two playoff starts against the Dodgers and Nationals.
Morosi cited the reason for the Brewers interest is tied to Jimmy Nelson's partially torn labrum that will cause him to miss a "chunk" of the 2018 season.
Jimmy Nelson surgery update: He did require a labrum repair and is likey to miss "a chunk" of '18, David Stearns said. How big a chunk? TBD.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) September 20, 2017
On Sept. 8, Nelson's last start of the 2017 season, he awkwardly slid back into first base and prematurely ended the best season of his five-year career that featured a ninth-place finish in Cy Young voting.
"We do think he’s going to be able to pitch in the major leagues for us at some point next year," said Brewers GM, David Stears. "We don’t know exactly when, but we’ll see how the rehab goes."
If the Brewers decide to make a run at Arrieta, it won't be light on the pocketbook.
"He's a squirrel that's got a lot of nuts in his tree," Arrieta's agent," Scott Boras said.
Boras, one of the most well-known agents in the sporting world, representing players like Jose Altuve, Kris Bryant, and Stephen Strasburg, is famous for getting his clients big paydays.
He netted Strasburg a seven-year, $135 million extension with the Nationals, and got his Washington teammate, and three-time Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, a seven-year, $210 million deal.
Though, it sounds like Stearns is willing to pull the trigger in the right situation.
"We are always open to exploring potential free agent acquisitions," Stearns said. "I am confident that our ownership will continue to support us should we see attractive investments."
Morosi also reports that the Brewers have plenty of space to make a big splash happen. Currently, the Brewers have less than $32 million committed to players on the roster, and have featured pay roles over $100 million earlier this decade.
#Brewers had payrolls in excess of $100 million earlier this decade; at present, commitments are ~ $32 million before arbitration raises, per Spotrac. They drew 2.6 million fans in 2017 and have the capacity to make a major addition. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 20, 2017
Those friendly monetary figures put the Brewers in a strong position regarding free agent spending, but it is also somewhat uncharted waters.
It helps that the Brewers just shed the contract of Matt Garza, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal in Jan. 2014, but this also brings to light the struggles the Brewers faced with Garza's contract.
At the time, Garza's payday was the biggest contract ever given to a Milwaukee pitcher, and it still is. It seemed like a sound investment in a 29-year-old ace, but he could only manage a 4.65 ERA over just 528 innings during his four seasons in Milwaukee.
However, Boras insists Arrieta is well worth a record-breaking payday from the Brewers.
"He brings a stability factor that few major-league athletes do,” Boras said, “because he’s in great shape and he’s durable and he can pitch in big games and he’ll teach young pitchers."
Similar to the Cubs free agent approach in 2015, where they signed veteran left-hander Jon Lester, a veteran presence on a Brewers staff that features nobody over the age of thirty and an average age of 26 could lift a staff that was already top 10 in the MLB in terms of ERA into the upper echelon in 2018.
A top tier pitching staff would only further compliment a club that held first place in the NL Central for 69 days, led by 5.5 games on July 15, and finished 86-76, only six games back of the World Series favorite Cubs.
Morosi added that Arrieta isn't the only object of Stearns' interest.
Lance Lynn, another division rival pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals who finished with a 3.43 ERA over 186 innings in his return from Tommy John surgery in 2016, is also on the Milwaukee radar.