This year’s free agency will be a reckoning for baseball. Players and agents have spoken out about how things are moving along, and I really think if things don’t change there will be a walkout or strike in the coming years. You might be in the camp that thinks the players are asking for far too much money, and that is fine. You may also be in the camp that believes when the players are paid well (or extremely well) that it is good for the game. Ultimately, when each side has a fair position — regardless of how that looks — that is the best option for all parties.
The baseball owners were able to get too much to pass in the last CBA, probably since the players were cashing fat checks and were happy. I mention this a lot, especially when talking politics (which I won’t do here), but we should always be leery of laws or policies that are being passed and the precedent they set, if not because we fear what our current governors may do — but what future governors may do with them. The last CBA created an unfair advantage for the owners in baseball, and the extreme rules the luxury tax imposed have hurt players ability to earn and has kept dollars in the owner’s pockets.
This isn’t how the Chicago Cubs are hurting Jake Arrieta, but it also doesn’t help. The way the Cubs have hurt Arrieta is in the fact that the team with the most familiarity in Jake, the organization that knows exactly what Jake can bring to a roster — has decided to mostly ignore that he is available.
This hurts Jake in a couple of ways…
The first, which is perhaps the most obvious is, the Cubs know Jake on an intimate level and have made the conscious effort to stay out of any contract negotiations for his services. This signals to other teams that, the Cubs (an elite organization with highly respected talent evaluators) do not believe he is worth what he’s asking. That has caused teams that might otherwise be involved, to take heed.
The result has been an incredibly slow Jake Arrieta market, one that has stalled time and time again.
What is also unfortunate for Jake is, the Cubs, who are certainly in the pitching market, are deeply rooted in the Yu Darvish talks and believed to be the team that signs him. If for some reason they don’t sign Darvish, their backup plans include Alex Cobb and newcomer, Lance Lynn. So right now the Cubs are telling the baseball world that they would rather look into that secondary pitching market than call Jake if Yu Darvish falls through. This does not bode well for Arrieta’s contract desires.
Jake’s market is additionally hurt since the Cubs are the richest team looking. Without a huge market, and more importantly their money, pushing contract talks up — Jake might not earn anywhere near the dollar amount or years he wanted. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers are all sitting on the sidelines in the free agent pitching market, creating a vast lack of dollars or interest.
With the Cubs zeroing in on their guy (Darvish) and seemingly have backup plans (Cobb, Lynn) Jake’s suitors are likely to be Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, St Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, and maybe the Toronto Blue Jays. Some of those teams have money to spend, but they don’t have the pockets to really push negotiations the way the Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, or Yankees do.
If this were pre this current CBA, I don’t think this would be an issue. All of these guys (or at least a vast majority) would be signed and getting packed for Arizona or Florida. But that isn’t the case in this market and certainly isn’t the case for Jake.
Personally, and I’ve mentioned this in the past, I think Jake should look to a short-term deal. Heck, maybe even a one-year deal then he bets on himself, once again. It is a lot easier for a team to swallow $25-$50 million over one-two years than offering up $150 million over five. It also seems like the sharks are already gathering in the event that he does take this approach.
If Jake Arrieta ever gets to point where he defers pursuit of long-term deal in this slow market, there are teams very interested in discussing high-salary short-term deal with him.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 9, 2018
Another idea I kicked around at the beginning of the offseason was if Jake was still a free agent once Spring Training started – he might find his way back to the Cubs.
When I mentioned this early on, some thought I was crazy for the suggestion. Like, why in the world would the best (or second best) free agent pitcher remain unsigned in mid-February? Well… here we are… This may or may not be a viable option for Jake or Chicago, especially if the Cubs sign Darvish or Cobb or Lynn, but if they proceed into spring with Mike Montgomery as their fifth man and Jake is still available… things could get interesting.
Up to about a three weeks ago, I didn’t think this would be realistic, but time is running out. Pitchers and catchers report next week. I know Yu Darvish has some real kinks to work out before the season starts. The best time to do that is in the spring when the bullets don’t really matter. For Jake to be signed I think Darvish will need to find a home, and then Cobb will need to sign, then I think Jake will fall in line as well. On the flip side, Scott Boras has had a history of getting deals done late in the offseason. Just ask the Washington Nationals. Both Max Scherzer and Matt Wieters have signed deals in Washington within a month of Spring Training.
In fact, Washington has been littered with Boras clients in recent years. Jayson Werth, Stephen Drew, Oliver Perez, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Brian Goodwin, and Anthony Rendon along with Scherzer and Wieters are all represented by the super-agent. With ties so strong to Washington, it’s no wonder Arrieta has been rumored to potentially end up there.
The options that make the most sense for Jake is one, accept the fate of a shorter deal with potentially a higher AAV. Two, let Scott talk to his friends in Washington and reunite Jake with Dave Martinez.
Like him, love him, or hate him — Scott Boras is the best in the business. Maybe he can once again work his magic for Jake Arrieta.