Just how much can Jake Arrieta earn through arbitration? That thought is scary, but rest assured Cubs fans, it will be ok.
Friday marks an important date in the arbitration process, the day each side submits their salary numbers (coincidently it marks the start of the Cubs Convention, where everyone plays nice for three days). If the numbers do not match (seldom do) the sides will have a date set to meet with an arbitration judge to determine a fair salary. More often than not, the team and player agree on a number before reaching the judge.
2015 Jake Arrieta
Let’s face it, in the sports world there is absolutely no way to put a dollar amount on Jake Arrieta’s performance last season. Ok ok ok, I realize WAR can somewhat determine a rough estimate, and I’ll use that further down in the article, but rarely does a player fully earn their worth through arbitration.
In Jake’s case, he will certainly earn a hefty raise from his current $3.63 M salary, the only question is… how much more?
Well, Tim Dierkes and Matt Swartz from MLB Trade Rumors estimates Arrieta to receive a modest bump to $10.4 M. I say modest as the then Cincinnati Red closer, now New York Yankee, Aroldis Chapman is expected to earn $12.9 M through arbitration, just ahead of Toronto Blue Jays’ beast, Josh Donaldson ($12.0 M).
The WAR argument
Certainly Jake Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, will use Arrieta’s WAR numbers to inflate the number they submit to the arbitrator. Then of course the record setting second half. The scoreless innings, the wins, and the eventual Cy Young.
If you are led to believe that every game in WAR is worth $6-7 M in salary (on an open market), then his 8.7 WAR would net him roughly $55 M. Now of course you’d lose your job if you gave anyone $55 M a season, but the conversion adds additional value into Arrieta’s corner.
Some will look at the 8.7 WAR and say, it was just one season… Sure he was out of this world good, just one season, but he has been extremely good for two seasons, posting a 5.3 WAR, 2.53 ERA, 150 ERA+, 0.989 WHIP, and a 2.26 FIP in 2014.
This gradual climb suggests that, while he may not reproduce his 2015 success, he is definitely trending towards the top of the pack as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
What does all of this mean?
Jake will earn a very nice increase in pay for the 2016 season.
With talent like Jake’s (and this will certainly be a conversation to be had with many other young Cubs players) it would only make sense for the team to want to buyout the remaining arbitration years, giving the player salary security, and the team of course getting a great young player at a considerable value.
The failed logic in this strategy is, Scott Boras… Scott doesn’t really do that for his clients.
Before you cry about Scott, and his greediness, he is doing what is best for his clients and he is the best in the game at what he does. Sure there are some clients that have told Scott to take a hike, but those are few are far between and the vast majority hire him because they know he will get them the most amount of money when that time comes.
Don’t get down on the player either.
The player has an extremely short career, and while a baseball contract might be a guaranteed deal, if a player is hurt it severely hinders their opportunity to earn. If your career was only 10 to maybe 20 years long, wouldn’t you want to ensure you earned top dollar for your contributions (hell, I’d love to earn top dollar for my contributions now)?
Athletes and agents are no different than you or me, and while there might be another comma (or two) and a couple extra zeros (to the right not the left) in their paychecks, they should get fair market value for their contributions.
It is because of this that Boras players rarely sign away arbitration years, and more often than not seek top dollar on the open market.
So… What will happen?
Most likely Jake and the Cubs will agree to a number near $11 M for the 2016 season. Then he will be arb eligible for the last and final time following the 2017 season. At that point the Cubs would have the John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Miguel Montero (along with several others the season before) money coming off of the books. The team could very possibly offer Arrieta a huge $25-$30 M (AAV) deal at that time, making sure he stays in Chicago, or go hard after several other starters that will be free agents at that time.
Personally I think it is foolish for Jake to walk away from a potential offer this or next offseason from the Cubs. He will undoubtedly see a huge contract offered his way, and could be in that David Price or Zack Greinke range. But even if the Cubs were to offer him $25 M for five years this offseason, it would take him years to earn back the money he would be missing out on (assuming he would earn $11 M this season and somewhere in the $15 M range next season).
It would take him five years at $30 M a season to make up for that lost money if he were not to accept a $25 M deal from the Cubs this offseason. Now, I am in no way suggesting that the Cubs have an offer on the table for that amount, nor have I heard anything outside of some early offseason skuttlebutt that there might even be conversations about an extension. I’m just looking at the math, how it would work out for Jake, and how it could help the Cubs lock down one of baseball’s best pitchers for the next five seasons.
Whether Jake remains in Cubbie blue for the next seven years or more is yet to be seen, but a lot of it will have to do with how much can Jake Arrieta earn throughout this arbitration process, and if the CUbs brass can somehow get him to sign long term.