Last dance for Arrieta and Cubs as free agency looms?
Jake Arrieta won’t be making the trip to the White House with Cubs teammates Monday, but he said it has nothing to do with politics (regardless of Twitter history). It’s because of health issues in his family back home in Texas.
But it will be a conspicuous absence because the dominant right-hander played a major role in the team’s success the last two years.
It also figures to offer a glimpse of what the team picture might look like a year from now when the front office will need to acquire and develop some young pitchers.
The 2015 Cy Young Award winner came to terms on a one-year, $15,637,500 deal Friday. The contract was just $112,500 more than Max Scherzer’s 2014 record for a player in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
But beyond that, the chances of the Cubs buying Arrieta out of free agency with a multiyear contract rank somewhere near the far end of the slim-to-none spectrum as they prepare for the start of their title defense with spring training just four weeks away.
His agent, Scott Boras, compares Arrieta to Scherzer (who left the Tigers for a seven-year,
$210 million deal after that 2014 season). The sides haven’t talked about a multiyear deal in at least a year. Neither side has plans to broach the subject anytime soon.
And Arrieta, who said last season he doesn’t plan to offer a Chicago discount, talks like a man who knows his meteoric career as a Cub has just one more season to run.
“The timeline is kind of coming to an end as far as leading up to free agency,” he said Friday as the Cubs Convention opened. “I’m here for one more year. And I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.
“If [an extension] happens, great. But if it doesn’t, then I’ll become a free agent. The team’s going to do what’s best for them. We’ll see where I fit into that.”
It won’t be as a third player on the roster with a nine-figure contract. Especially not with the Cubs already exceeding baseball’s luxury-tax threshold last season for the first time. And it likely won’t take anything less to secure the services of Arrieta starting in 2018.
“As a player, you’re told where you’re going to play your whole career until free agency,” said Arrieta,
who was acquired by the Cubs in a lopsided trade with the Orioles in 2013. “So that’s a nice aspect of [free agency], to be able to decide for once where you want to go.”
So enjoy the no-hit stuff and the Pilates and kale references for one more year. And keep an eye on what’s certain to be a stepped-up effort to get at least one young, controllable starter over the next year.
“There’s some great cities out there, some good teams, but I’m not worried about that now,”
Arrieta said. “I’m trying to be a good teammate and perform to the best of my ability for these guys for another season, and then we’ll go from there.
“I’ll always feel a part of this organization for the rest of my life, because I came over here in ’13 and turned my career around, won a Cy Young, threw a couple no-hitters, and won a World Series. So that’s going to be hard to top wherever I go, if I leave. I’ll feel a part of this city and the organization for a long time.”
Note: Two other arbitration-eligible Cubs reached agreements on one-year deals Friday: former closer Hector Rondon ($5.8 million) and right-hander Justin Grimm ($1.825M). Setup man Pedro Strop ($6 million) and the Cubs ($4.6 million) exchanged arbitration figures at the deadline Friday but expect to reach agreement far in advance of a hearing.
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