Jake Arrieta is Drawing Line in the Sand, Could Walk if Cubs Don’t Pay Up

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While answering questions about how dumb some fans are when talking about Jake Arrieta and the possibility of him using performance enhancing drugs, he spilled some interesting news which could find the Chicago Cubs ace pitching elsewhere if the team doesn’t pay up.

In USA Today, Bob Nightengale quoted Jake as saying, “If we don’t work a deal out here, and I go to free agency, I will get six or seven years. No doubt about that. I’d like to stay in Chicago, but if they don’t want me, somebody will.”

This is the first shot fired from Arrieta to the Cubs top brass when talking contracts. Jake has consistently said he wants to remain here in Chicago, and it has always seemed mutual from the Cubs perspective, but a deal with Jake is quickly becoming an extremely complicated situation.

While Jake has certainly pitched like the best pitcher in baseball (perhaps ever) over the past 24 starts, the Cubs will certainly find it difficult to give a seven year deal to a pitcher who will be 32 when he is able to test free agency. We have already seen that reluctance.

During this past offseason, Scott Boras – Arrieta’s agent – had come to the Cubs wanting to talk about a seven year extension. The Cubs countered with three or four year terms, which broke the negotiations off early. Without being more open to possibly offering a six or a seven year deal to the ace, the Cubs may have cost themselves a great deal of money, or could potentially lose Jake after next season.

While seven year deals for pitching have been notoriously bad for baseball teams, especially for hurlers over the age of 30, this past offseason we witnessed multiple deals of this nature. Both David Price (30 years old) and Zack Greinke (32) received a seven and a six year contract, respectively. They both equally broke the bank as well, with Price’s deal a seven year $217 million and Greinke sitting at six years $208.5 million.

Jake may or may not choose to use this as ammo to pursue a better deal from the Cubs, but if they are not willing to come to this level Arrieta will find no trouble finding this money on the open market.

“Look at all of the pitchers getting six- and seven-year deals at 30,31, and 32,” Arrieta said. “You see what’s going on and the money that’s out there. You’d be a fool not to try and benefit from that, or at least try to get what you feel you’re worth.”

Jake feels he is worth it, and who could argue against that? In fact, the Cubs and others shouldn’t be very concerned with his body or age at all. Not only is Jake in great physical shape (just take a look at the many pictures circulating the internet of him) but there are extremely low miles on his tread. He has only pitched a total of 826 innings (expect that to increase Wednesday night as he faces a poor Milwaukee Brewers team), while Greinke had more than 2,000 innings when the Arizona Diamondbacks paid him, and David Price had pitched almost 1,450 when the Boston Red Sox signed him this past offseason.

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Everyone knows the stats by now, and there is little doubt that if you needed to win one game, every team in the league would look to throw Arrieta to get that win. The ball would be in his hands over those of Greinke, Price, or even the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw. So does this success equate to a seven-year $220 million Jake Arrieta contract?

It most certainly does.

Even using modest WAR to salary projections, Jake has been worth $52.5 million to the Cubs over his last 37 starts. His WAR (8.1), FIP (2.41) and xFIP (2.66) during that time is second to only Clayton Kershaw, and his ERA is tops in the league by over a half a run.

Source: Fangraphs

Source: Fangraphs

While the Chicago Cubs had a ton of success luring players into the organization through offering them less money, it just might not work in Jake’s case – and he has the resume to back that up. Additionally, while being the best pitcher on the planet for the better part of a year, and has only made just north of $6 million during his career.

The Chicago Cubs do have some time, but with comments already starting perhaps that time is running short? With Jake coming up upon his final arbitration year, Jake’s comments give you the sense that while he would like to remain here, he knows he’s worth the money and knows he will get it elsewhere.

“You’ve got to strike when the iron is hot. And mine will be hot for a while., Arrieta said.

The longer the contract debate remains open just costs the Chicago Cubs more and more money, or continues to push Arrieta out of the team’s future plans. Sure people can comment on the age, sure people can comment on how long it took him to figure things out, and sure people can point to the potential for arm injury because of his motion… They can all point to a ton of things, but Jake keeps proving them all wrong through results.

This Cubs fan certainly doesn’t want to see him in another uniform potentially no-hitting his former team any time soon.