Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta open to long-term contract

Written By BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter Posted: 08/12/2014, 09:46pm

After only 13 months with the Cubs, right-hander Jake Arrieta already seems to feel pretty strongly about two things:

First, that he can be the ace of the pitching staff, even if the Cubs sign a front-line starter such as Jon Lester.

‘‘I don’t see why not,’’ Arrieta said.

And second, that he wants to stay in Chicago for the long term, even if it means potentially overriding the counsel of agent Scott Boras, who typically likes to take his best clients to free agency as early as possible.

‘‘I don’t think I’m a guy that’s going to ask for an astronomical amount of money,’’ Arrieta said Tuesday. ‘‘But I think if there’s a fair deal to be reached, I’m in 100 percent.

‘‘I like pretty much everything about Chicago and the team that’s in place now, with the guys that are coming up. It’s hard not to want to stay here.’’

Arrieta (6-4, 2.77 ERA) has been the Cubs’ de facto ace since right-hander Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Oakland Athletics on July 4. After opening the season on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder, he has settled into an 18-start run unlike any he had in his 72 career starts before this season.

If Arrieta had enough innings to qualify for the league leaders, a level he should reach next week against the San Francisco Giants, his ERA would rank seventh in the National League.

‘‘I’ve made a lot of strides; I’ve kind of developed,’’ said Arrieta, who thinks he has, at 28, finally unlocked all the potential his stuff promised since he started climbing the best-prospects lists in 2009 and 2010. ‘‘I’ve put myself, as far as I’m concerned, into those sorts of categories. But that said, there’s still a lot of work to be done. . . . Just all the rigors that go into being in a rotation at the highest level, in a spot like that, as a No. 1 guy. I think I’ve put myself in that conversation.’’

Whether the Cubs’ pursuits of Lester, 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price or anyone else are successful.

‘‘With the guys that we have here and the guys that are coming, we put a couple of guys like that in this rotation, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch over the next couple of years,’’ Arrieta said.

Which brings him back to long-term thoughts and that ‘‘fair deal’’ thing. Arrieta is headed into his first winter of arbitration eligibility. That’s where left-hander Travis Wood was last winter, coming off an All-Star season, when the Cubs raised the idea of a long-term extension. Wood chose to wait.

‘‘I don’t think it’s out of the question,’’ Arrieta said of his willingness to sign a long-term deal. ‘‘I don’t think there’s been anything formal in the works, but this is an organization that I’ve really seen a transformation take place — from a team that was scuffling for a number of years to one now that’s really trying to compete for a world championship. And I want to be a part of that for years to come.’’

So did Samardzija. And the sides never came close to agreeing to what the other side thought was a ‘‘fair deal’’ during extension talks.

Whether anticipated payroll flexibility in coming years makes a difference from the Cubs’ side this time around or faith in the rebuilding process does from Arrieta’s side, Arrieta said having Boras for an agent doesn’t preclude a deal.

‘‘The decision comes down to what I want to do,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘Scott is very good about giving me all the information and letting his clients make the final decision.

‘‘There’s a lot of negative talk about the way Scott does things, but I think it’s pretty clear he’s the best in the business. What it really boils down to is what I want, what the team wants, and we kind of go from there.’’


Twitter: @GDubCub

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