If Zack Greinke can’t beat Jake Arrieta, maybe he’d like to join him?
Arrieta, the Cubs’ ace, was asked by a Los Angeles writer soon after he beat the Dodgers’ Greinke for the National League Cy Young Award if he wanted to see the free agent Greinke join the Cubs and if Arrieta would help recruit him.
“I would assume that phone call might be made at least,” Arrieta said. “Yeah, we’d love to have him.”
Theo Epstein’s front office already has begun the pursuit of Greinke, a free agent pitcher sources suggest might be more coveted by the team this winter than even the younger David Price, the top left-hander on the market.
But for now, Arrieta and the flavor-of-the-year Cubs will settle for winning even more in November than they did in October during a deep playoff run – Arrieta becoming the third Cub in as many days to take home a major postseason award.
Kris Bryant on Monday won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, followed by Joe Maddon’s Manager of the Year Award Tuesday.
It’s the 13th time in history one team has won three of the four annual Baseball Writers Association of America Awards, first since the 2001 Seattle Mariners. It’s only the ninth time the awards went to three different individuals on the same team.
No team has swept all four (the Cubs don’t have a finalist for Thursday’s MVP).
“To be part of that with those guys and to do what we did as an organization this year is really, incredibly special,” he said, “and something we look to build on.”
That’s why Arrieta (22-6, 1.77) sounded so eager to talk about the future of this young Cubs team after a season in which he led the majors in wins, finished second to Greinke (1.66) in ERA, led the majors in complete games (four) and shutouts (three) and threw a no-hitter.
“To have the pieces that we have aligned for next season and a number of years to come, it looks like we’re going to have a pretty bright future,” said Arrieta, who set major league records for ERA after the All-Star game (0.75 in 16 starts) and ERA over the final 20 starts of a season (0.86).
The bigger issue – at least as big as Greinke’s flirtation with the Cubs – might be how much of that future will include Arrieta, who’s under club control through arbitration for two more seasons.
Arrieta, whose career took a dramatic upward turn since his 2013 trade to the Cubs, called extension talks “inevitable” but made no predictions on how they would turn out.
“I don’t think there’s a tremendous amount of angst on my part to get something done immediately, but that doesn’t mean that something can’t happen,” said Arrieta, 29, who reached 200 innings for the first time in his career. “My focus right now is obviously that I know I’m still with the Chicago Cubs, and I couldn’t be more excited and happy for the opportunity we’re going to have for this team.”
The Cubs met with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, during the GM meetings on more than one topic. But a multiyear extension is no better than an extreme long shot at this point.
The Cubs are trying to use what resources they have this winter to add pieces for an extended competitive run, and Boras already has compared Arrieta’s career arc to that of Max Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young winner who got a $210 million deal from the Nationals as a free agent last winter.
“If nothing does transpire then we proceed to spring training, and I’m still a Cub,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta is the Cubs’ fifth Cy Young winner, first since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux in 1992. The others: Rick Sutcliffe (1984), Bruce Sutter (1979), and Fergie Jenkins (1971).
He received 17 of 30 first-place votes and outpolled Greinke 169 to 147, with the Dodgers’ three-time winner Clayton Kershaw finishing third (101 points).
This is the second team in Cubs’ history with three BBWAA winners (also 1984 with Jim Frey winning manager of the year and Ryne Sandberg MVP in addition to Sutcliffe’s Cy Young).
Arrieta rode a dominant second half to the award, including just four earned runs allowed after July (0.41 ERA his final
Arrieta rode a dominant second-half to the award, including a major-league record 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break – when he went 12-1 to lead the Cubs to a 97-win season and their first playoff berth since 2008.
He allowed only four earned runs after July (0.41 ERA over those final 12 starts).
“I was locked in,” he said. “What I mean by that is my timing and my tempo and my delivery was as close to perfect as I felt it could have possibly been.
“There were times down the stretch where I expected to go out there and throw a shutout, or throw seven or eight scoreless [innings]. I got to that point where not only myself but my teammates expected it. That’s how locked in I really was.”
All that effectiveness came at a price of his innings total skyrocketing past his previous career high by more than 70 – 248 2/3, including playoffs, after 176 2/3, including a minor-league rehab assignment, last year.
“Fatigue did set in, I’ll be the first to tell you,” he said, referring to the point in the playoffs last month when his effectiveness slipped from his second-half dominance. “But physically my body was in better shape than ever. Physically, my body was in a great spot. It’s just something I had to adjust to.”
He compared it to a “dead-arm” period. He also said he expects this year’s experience to prepare him for another big workload next year – to help him take his dominance even deeper into October.
“You can train and prepare and be in top physical condition,” he said, “but without having a workload like that under your belt, or something similar, I think it’s natural for your body to wear down or start to fatigue.”