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Milwaukee Brewers may be setting their sights on Jake Arrieta, per report

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Starting pitching is the top priority for David Stearns and Co. this offseason.

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The first milestone of the MLB Offseason comes this week with the annual General Manager Meetings, which are taking place this year from November 13-16 at the Swan and Dolphin Resort on the Disney World grounds in Orlando, Florida. All 30 GMs will be in attendance as well as some player agents. While these meetings don’t usually carry the same level of notoriety as December’s Winter Meetings, often times there is important groundwork done for trades or free agent signings that may occur later on in the offseason.

Coming off an 86-win season and with increased expectations heading into next year, the Milwaukee Brewers figure to one of the most active teams during the 2017-18 offseason. David Stearns and co. will be seeking to augment their starting pitching and second base depth before Spring Training begins, but it remains to be seen just how aggressively they will chase after the top-level free agents available. According to one report, though, the Brewers may be setting their sights on a pursuit of one of the top starters on the open market.

From Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:

Mark Attanasio is a competitive owner who had a winning team in 2017 and wants to reach the next level. There’s been a lot of speculation that his baseball ops department has targeted (Jake) Arrieta as that No. 1-type starter Milwaukee needs. The Brewers have built themselves up nicely, but they need a big addition to compete with the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central.

Jake Arrieta is obviously a familiar foe to the Brewers, having spent the last four and a half seasons pitching in the NL Central with the Chicago Cubs. The 2015 Cy Young winner has been one of the National League’s top hurlers since he was dealt from Baltimore to Chicago in July 2013, having compiled a 2.73 ERA across 803.0 innings with the Cubs while registering 8.9 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 to go along with a 50.6% ground ball rate.

Arrieta will be 32 years old when the 2018 season begins, and this past season he wasn’t quite the dominant arm that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Jake made 30 starts in 2017, tossing 168.1 innings with a 3.52 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He lost nearly 2 MPH on his average fastball and also had some home run issues, coughing up an average of 1.2 dingers per 9 innings. ERA estimators like FIP- (96) and DRA- (90) saw Arrieta’s work in 2017 as closer to league-average than that of an “ace.”

Still, Arrieta and Yu Darvish are unanimously considered the top two pitchers available in free agency this offseason. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Arrieta will land a 4-year, $100 mil contract this winter (with the Brewers, no less), though agent Scott Boras will assuredly set the initial asking price at a much higher bar than that. As things stand right now, Milwaukee is projected for only about $61 mil in payroll for 2018, so they’d have little issue fitting another $25+ mil into the budget for next year.

Arrieta received a Qualifying Offer from Chicago, meaning whichever team that signs him with have to forfeit draft pick(s) in 2018. Under the new CBA, the Brewers would have to yield only their 3rd-highest pick in 2018 to bring Arrieta to the Cream City, which will come in the Competitive Balance Round B during next year’s amateur draft.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus