MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs hadn’t even held their first formal workout of the spring when Jake Arrieta responded to media Wednesday morning by dropping his shorts to bare his backside.
It shouldn’t be hard to imagine what that was all about.
The College World Series, of course. And ill-advised bets with teammates that result in tats in low places.
“I guess it’ll be there forever,” Arrieta said, displaying the “CCU” logo of teammate Tommy La Stella’s alma mater, Coastal Carolina University, tattooed across his right cheek.
“I was going to get the Chanticleer, but the guy said it’s got to be this big, and I said I’m not going to do that.”
Never mind the natural disinclination to live with a chicken on your butt the rest of your life.
“It turned out pretty well,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta, whose TCU Horned Frogs were eliminated by Coastal from the CWS, paid off on the bet when La Stella visited in December. He’s even ready to turn the other cheek if the schools meet again this year.
As Arrieta opened what figures to be his final spring as a Cub, this was the vibe and mood he brought to the clubhouse Wednesday – in contrast to the uncertainty of this contract year that hung as a backdrop on the first day of spring work for pitchers and catchers.
In fact, the 2015 Cy Young winner and Game 6 World Series winner even suggested a deal might still be possible, even if that looks like it would take a bigger upset than the Frogs’ loss to La Stella’s boys.
“There’s an open dialogue there. I think we will have talks,” Arrieta said. “But it’s not my No. 1 priority. I just wanted to focus on my health and coming into camp as well rested and in as good of shape as I possibly can. That’s the position I’m in.
“If we have those conversations we’ll sit down and hash some things out and see if we can get something worked out. If it happens, great. If not, I’ll continue to move forward and take it day by day and focus on being as good as I can.”
Team president Theo Epstein said during Cubs Convention, he, too, expects to talk again at some point with Scott Boras, Arrieta’s agent, about an extension.
General manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday the relationship with Arrieta remains “really strong” and that the club also considers the lines of communication open.
But nobody’s talking contract now.
And this reality persists:
Arrieta has said he doesn’t plan to offer a market discount to the club. Boras has compared Arrieta favorably to another of his clients, Max Scherzer, who got a seven-year, $210 million from the Nationals after the 2014 season. Arrieta will be 31 when next season opens. And the Cubs are unlikely to go all in for a megadeal, despite how important the right-hander has been to their success during back-to-back deep postseason runs.
“It feels like only a few months ago that I was traded over here and starting my career as a Cub in 2013,” said Arrieta, who was acquired from the Orioles, with Pedro Strop, in the Scott Feldman trade. “And I’ve had some incredible experiences with this organization. I owe a lot to this team and this organization and the ownership.
“I don’t want to see that time come to an end, my time as a Cub. But unfortunately the business side of the game shows its head every once in a while. But I still think there’s an opportunity and chance that we can have good conversations as far as an extension’s concerned and see if we can get something worked out.”
Insiders don’t expect that to happen at this point.
Then, again, it’s not like Arrieta ever expected to be walking around with La Stella’s college tattooed on his butt, either.
“Sometimes I forget I have it,” he said. “And people in the shower are like, `what the [expletive] is that?’ “