Jake Arrieta deal ‘only a phone call away,’ agent Scott Boras says

Jake Arrieta turned 32 on Tuesday and did not celebrate as usual at a major-league spring training camp.

Arrieta (we included a picture from his rookie year in 2010 with the Baltimore Orioles as a birthday present) remains unemployed 22 days away from Opening Day (though the Padres have reportedly stepped up their interest in recent days).

Agent Scott Boras spoke with the MLB Network’s Jon Morosi on Wednesday morning and sounded very Scott Boras-ish as he discussed his stable of free agents who must be wondering if a paycheck is anywhere in their future.

Morosi asked if there was progress to report on Arrieta, Mike Moustakas (who is on the White Sox’ radar), Greg Holland and Carlos Gonzalez.

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (57) delivers to a Washington Nationals batter during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, June 25, 2010, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

“We’re closer to deals than we were two weeks ago,” Boras told Morosi. “Some of those things are only a phone call away.”

As we have noted recently, the calendar is working against Arrieta, the former Cubs ace who needs to get in a camp soon to make an impact on a rotation in the early weeks of the season.

The longer Arrieta holds out, the more the Washington Nationals — one of his early and strong suitors — fall deeper in love with fifth starter A.J. Cole. As the Washington Post noted this week: “The Nationals appear perfectly capable of winning the NL East and waltzing into the playoffs with or without Arrieta.”

This is the kind of talk that must be creating anxiety for Arrieta and Boras. Banking on injuries creating a desperate need for pitching this late in camp seems like a huge gamble.

Playing a game of chicken this late in camp usually doesn’t pay off for the player.

Sadly, strolling through Twitter, some Cubs fans are still holding out false hope that Theo Epstein will stage a Dexter Fowler-style spring training surprise with Arrieta. Don’t count on it.

Tuesday on Jake’s birthday would have been the perfect time for that surprise. By today, all we know is the clock keeps ticking toward Opening Day.

Meanwhile, Yu Darvish — whose mega deal with the Cubs was supposed to shake loose this free-agent log jam — made his spring debut Tuesday. He’s on the right path to that opening weekend of the season.

Meanwhile, check out what Boras told the Kansas City Star — in discussing the Moustakas situation — and how tanking is throwing the free-agent system out of whack.

“The system wasn’t designed for non-competitiveness,” Boras said. “The system was designed for the runaway train, for the Yankees, so that if you want to spend so much more than everybody else you need to pay in to help the other teams, too.

“But what it’s turned out to be is a barrier. Teams say, ‘Well, we can’t pay that luxury tax,’ but nobody says, ‘Wait a minute, aren’t you making $300 million more than when this was put in?'”

Amid all of the craziness, ESPN on Thursday did a forecast of how all 30 teams could use free agents Arrieta, Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn.

Meanwhile, though Arrieta has been relatively quiet on Twitter, he did react to news that former Cubs teammate Jon Jay signed with the Kansas City Royals.