Jake Arrieta’s agent is painting a pretty picture only he sees

SHARE Jake Arrieta’s agent is painting a pretty picture only he sees

Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is greeted by his agent, Scott Boras, after throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers on Aug. 30, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Cubs won 2-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

A sports agent is a lot of things to his or her client — sounding board, punching bag, shoulder to cry on, advocate and protector. I considered adding “friend,’’ but any relationship that has money as its foundation probably can’t be called a true friendship.

When I think of agent Scott Boras, I think of another word, and, no, it’s not any of the colorful expressions that major-league general managers use to describe the man who is a chronic pain in their butts. Boras is a salesman, and, boy, has he been busy selling the wonders of Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who has not been wonderful for a while.

Arrieta is in the last year of his contract with the Cubs, and he has been pointing to a massive payoff ever since winning the 2015 National League Cy Young Award. When he looks in the mirror every morning, he sees biceps and dollar signs.

It’s an agent’s job to rotate the fruit so you can’t see the bruises. Boras takes that 10 steps beyond, and by the time he’s done talking, you’re pretty sure he has discovered a nectarine that will cure male-pattern baldness.

So pay no attention to Arrieta’s 5-4 record, his 4.92 ERA or his major-league-leading nine wild pitches. Instead, his agent said, gaze adoringly at Jake’s World Series performances last season.

“The fact he has skills and … the dynamic of winning two World Series games and things like that, I’d say he’s won the award of being measured when you win World Series games,’’ Boras said. “That’s the most important thing.

“… Many of the great ones, as great as they are, they’ve never achieved it. And he did it not once, but twice. If you want me to measure pressure, that’s World Series [guts]. It’s his greatest measurement, I think.

“I heard winning a World Series in Chicago was difficult.’’

(Note to every player from the 2016 champion Cubs: The first title in 108 years apparently entitles you to a key to the bank. That means you, too, Tommy La Stella!)

We also should ignore the fact that Arrieta’s fastball has dropped from 95 mph in 2015 to 92 or 93 this season (and part of last season, while we’re on the subject). Boras: You call that a problem?

“All the elite pitchers drop in velocity because when they come in the league, they’re throwing 96, they’re throwing 95, and then they’re down,” he said. “But the key thing is what are they all doing? They’re all between the ranges of probably close to 92 and 93.5.”

All of this is Boras’ way of saying that Arrieta is worth a $200 million contract, even if his numbers since 2015 suggest he isn’t. But Boras would try to sell a Fitbit to a two-toed sloth, so don’t expect him to be deterred.

Other things you didn’t know about Jake that Boras is saving up for contract negotiations:

— He’s a way better dancer than that Clydesdale David Ross.

— Once saved the world from nuclear destruction.

— When Arrieta and Cubs president Theo Epstein are sitting together, one of them went to Yale and the other is the smartest guy in the room.

It’s Boras’ job to sway public opinion. If he succeeds at that, it might put pressure on the Cubs to give Arrieta a contract like the seven-year, $210 million deal the Nationals’ Max Scherzer signed two years ago. If the Cubs don’t bite, Boras’ high praise for his client might convince another team that the real Jake Arrieta is the 2015 version, not this year’s model.

“We’re going to sit here and evaluate a player on a 60-day moment, or a 10-start moment, when he has three years of history?’’ Boras said. “Don’t do it; that’s not fair.’’

But it isn’t just a two-month blip. We were having the same conversation about Arrieta last season. Clearly, something is off and has been. Part of this stems from 2015, when he had numbers after the All-Star break that might never be matched: a 12-1 record and an ERA of 0.75, the lowest in major-league history.

It’s possible some of us are guilty of comparing him to something that was incomparable.

But even though Arrieta went 18-8 last season, his ERA rose to 3.10, despite having one of the best defenses in baseball behind him. The question the Cubs and other teams have to ask themselves is where the regression we’ve seen since 2015 will stop.

Smart teams pay for what they think the future holds for a player, not for past performance. Boras’ flowery descriptions of Arrieta might be nice, might fill up a botanical garden, but a $200 million contract is, in a word, hazardous.


Stranger than fiction: Cubs pound Kershaw, get swept in L.A. anyway

How long will Cubs let prospect Ian Happ struggle in big leagues?

The Latest
The rally is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the UIC Forum. It has potential to help Johnson energize his base and boost turnout, particularly among young voters who supported Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.
Right-hander will face Astros in his first Opening Day start
Javier Sanchez, who goes by Azuna, says his painting is intended to convey ‘empowerment no matter who you are or what you do’ and that ‘you can do your dreams.’
The action hero isn’t quite up to Jack Bauer speed anymore on frenetic Paramount+ spy thriller.
The changes, which apply to masking and the number of visitors, take effect Monday.