Hypothetically, Jake Arrieta likes the idea of staying with the Cubs long-term.
But don’t expect him to draw comparisons, even hypothetically, between himself and the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, who avoided free agency when he signed a seven-year extension this week.
“I’ll let you judge that,” said the Cubs’ ace, before elaborating: “Just look at the numbers.”
And forget hypotheticals altogether when it comes to whether he believes in the concept of hometown discounts.
“No,” he said, before elaborating: “No.”
Arrieta’s long-term future with the Cubs has been a storyline since his career took a sharp upward turn through his first full season with the organization in 2014, reaching hand-wringing levels last year when he led the Cubs to a late-October run during a Cy Young season.
“I think I’ve made it clear that I like Chicago. I think everybody knows that,” said Arrieta, whose extension talks with the club earlier this year went nowhere fast when the Cubs (four years) and Arrieta (seven) couldn’t get close on contract length.
“If I had my way, I’d stay here,” he said. “But that’s just one side of the story.”
Arrieta, 30, who is eligible for free agency after next season, has been compared repeatedly to Max Scherzer by Scott Boras, the agent who represents both. Scherzer, also a Cy Young winner, signed a seven-year, $210 million free agent deal with the Nationals before last season.
Strasburg figured to be this year’s market-setting free agent, the top eligible pitcher of this class – until Boras, who’s also Strasburg’s agent, got that seven-year, $175 million deal done this week.
Strasburg’s contract not only shakes the upcoming pitching market but also seemed – at least initially – to suggest a way back into the 2018 Cubs fold for Arrieta.
Strasburg is the first frontline client in four years that Boras hasn’t taken to the free agent market.
“I think the misconception is that Scott wants everybody to go to free agency,” Arrieta said. “For a lot of guys it’s smart to do that, and as we’ve seen in the past, a lot of Scott’s clients that have gone to free agency have been very well compensated, and it worked out for them.
“Obviously, with Strasburg’s situation, he was drafted by Washington, loves the organization, loves his teammates and he’s been well taken care of. He wanted to stay there. And he was compensated very well for it.”
But just as team president Theo Epstein said a day earlier that Strasburg’s signing has a negligible impact on the Cubs’ pitching plans going forward, Arrieta doesn’t seem to think it applies to him – certainly not in a way that changes his view of where he stands in the process.
“Obviously, it’s a really big contract for a guy who has had Tommy John [surgery in 2010],” Arrieta said. “But that’s the price for starting pitching, especially really good starting pitching.”
As for where the dollars and years eventually fall, “Financially, I’ll be fine regardless,” said Arrieta, who’s open to in-season talks but only if they’re quick and don’t distract from the on-field focus.
Just don’t bring up that hometown discount thing.
“You want to be paid in respect to how your peers are paid,” he said. “I don’t think that changes with any guy you ask. Guys want to get compensated fairly. It’s something that you see that happens around baseball every year.”