There was a time earlier this year, when his velocity was way down, his command was still wanting, and nearly every fly ball was well struck and exiting the ballpark, that the possibility of Jake Arrieta having to settle for a one-year prove-it contract in free agency was not a crazy proposition.
Unlikely, even at his nadir? Sure. But it was not nutty to think about it, especially after seeing what happened to Dexter Fowler just a couple years ago – and he was coming off of a very good year!
Now, after a long stretch of very good and very consistent performance, Arrieta has righted his financial ship, and is safe to be looking ahead to a long-term payday in free agency after this season. It remains to be seen how aggressively the Cubs will bid to hold onto their former-Cy-Young-winning righty, who will turn 32 next March.
What does not remain to be seen, barring a catastrophic injury, is whether the Cubs will make him an $18.1 million qualifying offer after the season, and whether Arrieta will reject the offer.
“That’s hilarious to even think about,” Arrieta told the Sun-Times about the possibility of accepting a qualifying offer. “You’re asking me if I would play on a one-year contract? Absolutely not. Why would I do that? Why?”
Confidence reigns for Arrieta, as it has for a long time, helping propel him from an up-and-down top prospect with unfulfilled promise to one of the game’s most dominating starting pitchers.
He’s not quite that guy anymore, but as Michael explored earlier, Arrieta is still a sufficiently valuable starting pitcher that he’s going to command a healthy multiyear deal in free agency, even with draft pick compensation attached. Remember, under the new CBA, a team that signs a qualified free agent no longer loses its first round pick (instead, the team will lose a combination of picks/IFA pool money after the first round, depending on market size and luxury tax status).
The Cubs, if Arrieta does reject the offer and signs with a new team, will now receive only a pick after the second round (assuming they stay under the luxury tax cap this year – otherwise, they receive a pick after the fourth round).