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Boras on client Jake Arrieta of Cubs: `Kind of ideal for the free agent dynamic’

LOS ANGELES – As Jake Arrieta tries to become the majors’ first 17-game winner Sunday, with more than a month left in the season, he said he doesn’t think about achieving the increasingly rare 20-win season.

“For me, it’s how many times can I give my team a chance to win?” said Arrieta. “If I do that every time out, then the wins are just going to pile up.”

How valuable is that stat anyway? Not valuable at all, say almost everybody familiar with the other ways to measure pitching performance these days.

But at least one person who will have a lot to say about setting the value of the burgeoning Cubs’ ace the next few years strongly disagrees.

“That is so not true,” said Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras. “Mr. Owner, how are you? Is your last name going to begin with a `W’ or an `L’? Because those are the only two alphabets of owners. So 20 wins, thank you very much.”

Boras and those with him in his private suite at Dodger Stadium laugh.

But as Arrieta takes the league’s No. 2 ERA (2.22) the mound Sunday, trying to avoid a sweep to the Dodgers after Jon Lester’s 5-2 loss Saturday night, his value seems to be rising with every quality start he adds to his streak of 13 – and every win.

He’s 7-1 this season after a Cubs loss.

“You’ve got to figure out a way to get your team to the win,” Boras said. “And so when people say to me, in an evaluation what the value of that is, it may not be the final metric, but I’m telling you, to the people that own these teams, it is the metric.”

Argue the point all you want with Boras or anybody else. But the bottom line is Arrieta wins a lot. In large part because he does very well just about everything it takes to win – enough that he might win a Cy Young Award if he keeps up his pace through September.

“His stuff is as good as anybody out there,” said former MVP Buster Posey, the Giants catcher who gets heavy doses of the Dodgers’ Cy Young tandem of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke annually. “He’s up there at the top.”

If he gets to 20 wins before anybody else this year, he’ll be just the fourth to reach the mark in three seasons. There have been only 23 20-win seasons in the last 10 years – after 45 in the previous 10 non-strike seasons. And 95 in the 1970s.

It’s at least rare in an age of five-man rotations and pitch counts. It can also be a sign of durability and pitching deep into games.

The Cubs and Arrieta haven’t had even initial conversations about extension talks, and with Arrieta under club control through arbitration for two more seasons it might be more than a year before anything gets serious.

But whether Arrieta wins 20 or not, if he stays healthy and keeps up the kind of dominance he has shown since he was traded in 2013 from the Orioles, the length of the Cubs’ competitive window could have a lot to do with the length of Arrieta’s Cubs career.

Arrieta said he has no problem with betting on himself through the arbitration years.

“I’m going to make money regardless,” he said, “so I’m not overly eager to sign anything. I’m just trying to focus on the important things for our club. And just to be ready for that next start.”

Boras already is working up Arrieta’s case, dismissing age as a negative (he’ll be 30 next season) and spinning his lack of innings in a season into positive (his 174 this year are a career high).

Boras already drawing comparisons to another one of his clients, Max Scherzer — the former Cy Young winner, who got a seven-year $210 million deal from the Nationals as a free agent last winter.

“You look at guys that have done well, that are durable,” Boras said. “The great thing is Arrieta doesn’t have many innings on his arm. It’s like Scherzer.”

Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million offer to remain with the Detroit Tigers last year before becoming a free agent.

“I always tell owners, `The best bet for you when you want to sign [pitchers] is ones that are proven but yet are proven with lesser innings.’ Max Scherzer. Pitching odometer. He had 1,200 innings. You find me a guy who has Cy Young capabilities with only 1,200 innings in the big leagues. Most guys have nearly 2,000.”

Arrieta has 740 1/3 in the majors – 1,232 1/3 in eight professional seasons overall.

“The idea is this is not an age component as much as it is a durability component for innings,” Boras said.

“So he’s kind of ideal for the free agent dynamic, because he’s a brilliant talent, and he’s had to utilize fewer innings to find the station of being a No. 1 pitcher,” Boras said. “I think we can say that about Jake Arrieta now, that he’s reached the status of a No. 1 pitcher.”


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