Joe Maddon on Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and next season’s bullpen
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With the Cubs Convention this weekend and spring training around the corner, manager Joe Maddon seemed pleased with the front office’s work this offseason. He also hinted that it might not be done yet.
Free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta is still without the six-year mega-contract his agent, Scott Boras, is seeking. With time ticking for next season, the Cubs have remained linked to Arrieta.
Maddon has often said he wants what’s best for Arrieta, but he said he leaves the negotiating to Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
“Jake knows how I feel about him personally,’’ Maddon said Wednesday night at his Thanksmas charity event in Chicago, where he cooked and served dinner for the homeless. ‘‘We all do. We would not have had this wonderful run without him. I just wish for what’s best for him and his family quite frankly. . . . [I’d] love to have him back, but any team would. That’s not for me to say.”
A possible replacement for Arrieta is right-hander Alex Cobb, who had a 3.66 ERA in 29 games last season with the Rays. The Cubs have been connected to Cobb this offseason in part because he’s familiar with new pitching coach Jim Hickey.
Maddon was optimistic about the Cubs’ chances to land him.
“I love Alex Cobb,’’ he said. ‘‘When you [media] get to really work with him, if that happens, you’ll love him, too. This is a man’s man, and he’s very highly accountable, and he’s really good.”
As for the bullpen, Maddon said he loves it. He also said he views Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop as the “bedrock” of the bullpen and compared their versatility to that of Ben Zobrist.
“You can put them anywhere, and they’ll do well,” he said.
One member of the bullpen who is a cause for concern for some is left-hander Justin Wilson, who had a 5.09 ERA in 17⅔ innings for the Cubs in 2017.
Despite Wilson’s struggles, Maddon made it clear that he views him as an integral part of the bullpen.
“Justin Wilson, when we get him back on track — which I believe we will — he’ll make all the difference in the world to bring success to the bullpen,” Maddon said.
Although Maddon might love the bullpen, he hinted that Epstein and Hoyer aren’t done “building the whole thing up” yet.
The best reliever on the market is right-hander Greg Holland. The Cubs have been linked to him, but it’s a long shot and will depend on the price the Cubs pay for their other starting pitcher.
Pitchers and catchers have their first workout of spring training on Feb. 14; the first full-squad workout is five days later.
Follow me on Twitter @madkenney.