Theo Epstein Jake Arrieta

Arrieta Wants Back In, Maybe

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It is now mid-January and the Chicago Cubs are looking for a starting pitcher. Jake Arrieta is still looking for a place to call home. Things might be getting a bit heated up on that front for both sides. Bruce Levine is reporting that Jake Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, and the Cubs brass have had multiple conversations lately. With the Cubs still looking for one more starter, and of course their familiarity and comfortability with Jake, this makes some sense.

The Cubs and Scott Boras, Arrieta’s agent, have had numerous conversations lately about a multi-year deal, sources confirmed. If a deal is agreed upon, it would reunite Arrieta with teammates and fans who love him after his superb three-and-a-half-year tenure in Chicago.

At the Cubs Convention, Theo spoke openly about Jake, Scott, and a possible return.

“We have never ruled anything out with him,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of Arrieta as Cubs Convention opened up Friday evening. “He earned the right to be a free agent. He gets the ability to talk with 30 teams. I am sure he has a number of suitors and this is a special time for him. He will take his time and find the right contract and right place. We wish him well. It is not that we have closed the door to him at all. We will just see where this offseason takes us.”

“I haven’t heard anything from Scott that he wouldn’t want to return if the deal was right,” Epstein said. “I am sure the door is open on both sides.”

Jake Arrieta has a career 68-31 record, 2.73 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, two no-hitters, won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, all in 803 IP with the Cubs. Jake has also held a career 3.08 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, in nine career playoff starts. Boras would like to catapult those figures into a long-term high-value contract for Jake. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and seemingly the rest of baseball are very wary about handing out deals over four-years at a high value.

“This is not about the ability to pay, this is about the choice to pay, and what you want to provide your fans,” Boras said. “Our game is very healthy.

“The team that is cutting payroll is providing their family less protection, for winning. They don’t have the resources. They are not living in the gated community of Playoffville.”

When Jed Hoyer was on the Bernstein and Goff show Friday, he again was complimentative but gave no indication that the team would blow the financial roof on a signing.

“Teams are looking at where they are in relation to the luxury tax and making decisions regarding that, and maybe looking ahead to next years free agent class or the one after that,” Hoyer told Jason Goff and Dan Bernstein.

“Certainly, we hold him in the absolute highest regard, and we’ll see where it takes us.”

So, of course, the team would hold their cards close to their vest, but they are certainly talking and they are maybe more interested in bringing him back than some think. Bruce Levine hits on that in his piece.

Suffice to say, the Cubs will do everything they can do to sign a pitcher. What is great about this offseason is, whoever wants to actually open their wallet will get the player they target. Jed sort of hit on this in his interview where he spoke about how the Cubs were very aggressive, early. They signed Tyler Chatwood to perhaps an overvalued deal, they brought in Brandon Morrow, they brought in Steve Cishek. But since, they have been quiet.

For Jake to return, he has been looking for a six-year deal, worth in the neighborhood of $150 million. The Cubs had been rumored to of said they would take him back on a four-year, $110 million deal. The four-year deal would offer Jake a $27.5 million AAV, $2.5 million more than the six-year pact would. There were some rumors that a team was preparing a five-year offer for Jake as well. Now, I don’t know if Jake is willing to reduce the number of years, but in doing so I believe the team would have to increase their AAV rather significantly.

Would Jake listen if there was a four-year, $28 million AAV deal on the table? Would it take something closer to $30 million (I can’t believe I just typed $30 million for Jake Arrieta)? Eventually, something has to move, either the player’s expectations or the organization’s offers. With a league sticking to their guns, thus far, I think the players will likely budge first. Afterall, they are expected in camp in exactly a month.

Could the Cubs swoop in, especially in a buyers market, and grab Arrieta at a team friendly contract length and a player-friendly high AAV contract? It is certainly becoming more and more likely.

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