I don’t believe Jake Arrieta is even remotely acquainted with the concept of regret. This is not a man who is wired for doubt or misgivings.
So the risk of walking away from what might be multiple World Series titles with the Cubs probably doesn’t register on Jake’s anguish meter, if there is such a thing. Judging by Gordon Wittenmyer’s fine story about Arrieta in Wednesday’s Sun-Times, the 2015 Cy Young winner’s decision to turn down the Cubs’ purported last-minute, take-it-or-leave-it offer had to do with money, affirmation and pride.
Which makes him like a lot of players.
His ability to not second-guess himself makes him like few others.
Arrieta got what he wanted from the Cubs in terms of accomplishment, and he didn’t need more from them in that regard. He had one of the best seasons in baseball history in ’15. He won two World Series games the next season, helping the organization end a 108-year title drought. What more could any one player want?
More money, of course, which is why Chicago is now Jake-less and Yu-ful. That’s it. There’s really no need to analyze Arrieta’s move to the Phillies to death. The only thing that complicated the situation was sentimentality – not on the part of Arrieta or the Cubs, but on the part of fans.
Well, sentimentality and the fact that Yu Darvish is stinking it up for the Cubs.
It was time for Arrieta to make money. He knew it, and the Cubs knew it. There was going to be a parting of ways, and that was obvious when Max Scherzer got big money from the Nationals in 2015.
The only thing left to discuss is sincerity, and there’s probably not much of a discussion. Were the Cubs sincere about wanting him back or did they make an offer they knew Arrieta and agent Scott Boras would reject? From the outside, a six-year, $120 million offer screamed, “We love you!’’ What it really said was, “ ‘Love’ seems a bit strong.’’
That low-ish offer looked like a calculated gamble from the Cubs, who wanted to sign Darvish, not Arrieta, but didn’t want to take a public-relations beating for not even making an offer to a pitcher who had done so much for them. There was no way he was going to take that offer, even though the market had inexplicably stalled for top-shelf pitchers.
Surely Arrieta knew that the “lowball’’ offer was coming. The last-second delivery method, at least the way he described it, might have been clumsy. The rest of it made perfect sense.
He signed with the Phillies for more guaranteed money ($75 million over three years), and here we are, still kicking at the remains. That, too, makes sense. He’s a huge part of the Cubs’ history.
All involved got what they wanted. Arrieta got more money. The Phillies got a good pitcher. The Cubs got the pitcher they wanted in Darvish and didn’t have to sign a pitcher they really didn’t want.
It might be hard to see the Cubs as a winner under the current circumstances. Darvish is struggling so far this season. He gave up six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings Wednesday in a loss to the Rockies at Wrigley Field, and it had to make the timing of Arrieta’s comments more uncomfortable for the Cubs. Team president Theo Epstein knows that everyone is comparing and contrasting. He knows that trading in the Arrieta model for the Darvish model doesn’t look good right now. Arrieta is 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA. Darvish is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA.
Anyone interested in the bigger picture? It’s that there was definite dropoff in Arrieta’s velocity after his Cy Young season and that he led the N.L. in wild pitches in 2016 and 2017. Boras could whip out pie charts explaining his client’s greatness to his heart’s desire, but those numbers didn’t lie. Giving Arrieta a massive contract would have made no sense for the Cubs.
The only thing they’ll have to apologize for is if Arrieta succeeds and Darvish doesn’t. But that’s the risk that comes with every baseball decision. This one happens to have a huge price tag attached to it.
The Phillies averaged 93 losses the last five seasons. If Arrieta ends up being a big part of a turnaround — if they end up winning a World Series — that would do more for his reputation, his bearded brand, than another Cubs World Series or two. Philadelphia is a surprising 17-13.
“There’s not many like me,’’ Arrieta told the Sun-Times. “That’s just how it is, man. I view myself as very different than most. I’m not saying I have the best stuff or I’m the best pitcher or I have the best command. But just what I do is pretty unique to me. The whole thing. I don’t care what the situation is, I bet on myself to get the job done.”
Regrets? He hasn’t had a few.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcastsand Google Play, or via RSS feed.