jake arrieta cubs roadIn the offseason, and particularly as various arbitration-related dates and deadlines approached, we discussed a very important part of the Chicago Cubs’ long-term future: what happens with Jake Arrieta when the Cubs’ team control is up after 2017?

The conversation, of course, was about whether the two sides would, or even could, come together on a long-term extension. I even put together a lengthy dive into just what a plausible Arrieta extension could look like, and whether the sides would actually entertain such a deal.

In the end, we kept running up against the same fundamental problem again and again, stated as far back as November:

I have trouble seeing an extension that makes sense both for the Cubs and for Arrieta, thanks to a handful of unique circumstances. For the Cubs, they’ve got Arrieta under control for his age 30 and 31 seasons at what amount to extremely nice team options (arbitration years two and three). How much money are they going to want to guarantee today for the privilege of securing Arrieta’s age 32, 33, 34, and, say, 35 seasons? Arrieta is probably still going to be a very good pitcher by then, but guaranteeing huge, free agent-level dollars two years in advance to a pitcher over 30 years old is rarely an advisable strategy. And, then, from Arrieta’s perspective, if the Cubs are going to guarantee only the salaries in, say, the next three or four years, is that really worth him giving up his age-32 shot at free agency? It’s certainly possible that he’s comfortable just locking down life-changing money right now, but it’s also possible he wants to bet on himself and make much, much more. I couldn’t blame him either way. It’s just a tricky situation with an older pitcher, who broke out late, and who is still under team control into his 30s. You don’t see it very often, which is why it’s hard to see a match coming. (Obligatory: I heart Jake Arrieta, and I think he’s all kinds of awesome. This isn’t about that. I’m very glad that the Cubs will have him, at a minimum, for the next two seasons.)

So, then, when Jon Heyman reported that the two sides really had discussed a long-term extension this offseason, it went about as you would expect:



In order to forgo free agency at this time, I can completely understand Arrieta seeking a contract in the range of those other ace deals. And, because you’re talking about guaranteeing a huge number of years and hundreds of millions of dollars two years before free agency even arrives, I can completely understand the Cubs not being willing to go there.



A shorter extension (maybe five years and $111 million guaranteed, as I discussed before?) makes plenty of sense for the Cubs. It just may not make enough sense for Arrieta.

Everyone agrees that Jake Arrieta is awesome, and everyone agrees that the Cubs would love to have him in Chicago for years – more than just two – to come. But the unique set of circumstances described above create a reality in which it is very difficult to put together a win-win.

I do hope, as Heyman implies, that the sides keep talking and exploring creative ways to bridge the gap. I’m very happy that Arrieta will be with the Cubs for two important years in 2016 and 2017. For now, that’ll just have to be enough.

UPDATE: From the man, himself:

And more from Arrieta and Theo Epstein here.




Keep Reading BN ...

« | »