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Jake Arrieta sweepstakes update: Phillies moving up, Nationals may be moving on

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in-camera to produce this image.) Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game four of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 18, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Day 2 of March has arrived and — remarkably — Jake Arrieta remains unemployed.

Let’s absorb that statement for a bit.

Arrieta, 31, is healthy. No one is questioning that. He went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA last season for the Cubs and was one of their most dependable pitchers in the second half — a 2.28 ERA after the All-Star break.

He has won 54 games over the last three seasons, including a 22-6 mark in 2015, when he had a 1.77 ERA and won the National League Cy Young Award. And he has a 5-3 record and 3.08 ERA in nine postseason starts. All these things look good on a resume.

Did we mention he is still unemployed?

This isn’t to suggest that Arrieta and agent Scott Boras aren’t mostly to blame for this lack of employment. But … wow.

The Nationals seemed like a likely landing spot, but as each day of camp goes by, the Nationals are feeling better and better about A.J. Cole.

Hold on.

Of course, if you polled 30 major-league general managers and asked if they would rather have Jake Arrieta or A.J. Cole completing their rotation, Arrieta would get roughly 30 votes and Cole would get something close to zero.

But time is the key issue here — and we’re talking about more than the four, five or six years Arrieta originally wanted on his contract. His most likely option at this point is a three-year deal.

But — and this goes against everything that Boras believes — a one-year deal might be the better option given the current market and the fact Opening Day appears to be getting closer.

The other time factor?

It’s clear Arrieta will report to camp in good shape. Given his workload over the last three years with the Cubs, getting a breather during spring training 2018 isn’t such a bad thing.

But he needs to start facing hitters soon.

And teams need to start making decisions about their rosters and rotations.

If the Nationals move on with Cole — and indications are they are leaning in that direction — the Phillies could become the frontrunners.

The Phillies are still reportedly interested in Arrieta, but have also kept in regular pursuit of fellow free agents Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn.

All this uncertainty 15 days after the Cubs signed Yu Darvish — a move that was supposed to shake loose the rest of the free-agent market.

We’re still waiting.