Early on I had a theory if the Chicago Cubs wait long enough the free agent pitching market might come back to them, along with it – Jake Arrieta. It seems as though that thought could very well be happening. With Bruce Levine verifying Bob Nightengale’s sources that the Cubs want Jake back, but only for four years and $110 million.
Our @MLBBruceLevine just told us it's Cubs or Cards for Jake Arrieta, with neither team budging at a 4 year maximum. Boras wanted 6 years in November. The odd FA market continues to bring Arrieta/Darvish terms back into the Cubs wheelhouse.
— M@ Spiegel (@MattSpiegel670) January 3, 2018
Bruce continued on, saying that the only teams in on Jake at the moment are the Cubs and their biggest rival – the St Louis Cardinals.
You can argue if the market has come back to the Cubs or that the market has had some help. In either event, it is helping the Cubs in their pursuit of another starting pitcher. And with the Cubs casting a literal wide net they will have the proverbial pick of the litter. That net started out rather narrow, having the names of Tyler Chatwood, Alex Cobb, and Brandon Morrow on it. In fact, just one month ago I would have bet the kid’s college fund on the idea that all three would be Cubs by January 3rd, 2018.
With Cobb and his camp apparently looking at a $17 to $19 million AAV deal, the Cubs are more than willing to back off that trap. The market is very wary of spending this offseason. While that was mostly limited to the number of years if Cobb’s camp is seriously believing someone will overspend by $12 million in this climate they’re bonkers.
It is due to this idea that the Cubs have moved on from Cobb. While Levine continues to report that they check-in on him, they would opt to spend a little more (while staying within the four-year framework) and get a better pitcher. In fact, Cobb’s refreshed demands were the reason the Cubs looked at Darvish as well as guys like Chris Archer among others. The Cubs are the most active organization in the pitching market – and their interest or lack thereof is controlling the entire market.
The whole idea that the Cubs can be bold in their offers is this market seems twisted. In the past teams were more than ecstatic to spend ill amounts of money on starting pitching. If a guy had the ability to pick up a baseball, teams would throw otherworldly amounts of cash in their direction. But that isn’t the case in this offseason. It seems that any pitcher on the market right now needs the Cubs involvement in order to get noticed.
This season has been a different animal, and I really believe that the unwillingness to spend has brought pitcher’s price tags down. That is why Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer decided to fly out to Texas to speak with Yu Darvish. But I also believe Darvish and his people leaked rumors of his price tag is much lower than originally thought. By doing this, he brought the biggest cow to Texas and sparked up a slew of new interest.
What was once a certainty that the Cubs would sign Cobb, he was easily replaced by Darvish. With the Cubs interest in those two pitchers, the entire market went silent on Cobb and picked up on Yu. Arrieta’s recent whirlwind of interest was sparked behind the news that the Cubs are serious about bringing him back – albeit on their terms.
With the Cardinals also in search of difference-making pitching, they likely have a similar shortlist of players to choose from. What is crazy is, the loser of the Arrieta or Darvish sweepstakes might possibly win the other. If you call a $23-$28 million AAV winning. In either case, the Cardinals might have looked elsewhere if the Cubs weren’t so heavily rumored to be interested.
I am actually stunned at the lack of interest across the league in any of the pitching available. Jake is a very good pitcher. He might not be the 2015 version of Jake Arrieta, but he is a very good pitcher in this league with a legitimate playoff resume. Yu Darvish is a legitimate frontline starting pitcher in this league. Regardless of his 2017 World Series performance, Darvish is a 200 plus strikeout guy. There should be 10 teams lining up trying to earn their talents over six or more years. But in this batty version of the Hot Stove League, it just isn’t happening.
The Cubs casting a large net and being cautious to jump has benefited them immensely. Cobb was ripe for their picking, and sure his camp seemed to be off their rocker, continued negotiation should have landed him. But their patience has put the organization in a much better position to land a difference-making player, that cannot go understated.
Now Jake and Darvish sit at their doorstep. Jake looking for someone to validate his early demands and Darvish apparently open to market value. There is a feeling that one of the two will be signed soon. Once that happens the other should go quickly, and then the secondary pitchers will go. Like dominos, all it will take is for one to accept a deal and the rest should fit into place.
So who should the Cubs try and sign? The familiar Jake Arrieta? Or Yu Darvish?