Perhaps the most notable outgoing free agent the Cubs have had in years, Jake Arrieta is going to get paaaaaaid this winter.
It’s not just because he was so very good in his time with the Cubs, and it’s not just because his agent, Scott Boras, always seems to get top dollar for his starting pitchers. It’s also because the market is sorely lacking in high-end starting pitching this year, and although he’s had his ups and downs, Arrieta was almost quietly brilliant from May until his early-September hamstring injury. And then he closed out his season with a gutty performance in the NLCS, even after his comeback from the hamstring issue was clearly premature, in retrospect.
Arrieta is good, has been good, and will probably continue to be good – though far shy of the Cy Young winner he was in 2015 – for the next few years.
And, such is the case for virtually all starting pitchers who hit free agency in their 30s, the number of years on his next deal will likely outpace those “good” years he has left in his arm.
If you’re the Cubs, you’d love to retain him. But you also have to be realistic about the price and years you’re willing to commit to a soon-to-be-32-year-old pitcher when you’ve already got a significant contract in soon-to-be 34-year-old Jon Lester in the rotation, sizable arbitration raises on the way in the next few years, and a free agent class after 2018 that might make you feel foolish for overspending this winter.
Arrieta has previously been pretty open about wanting a deal in line with other former Cy Young winners who hit free agency, and, if he sticks to those guys, a six-year, $150 million-ish demand is almost certainly going to put him out of the Cubs’ comfort zone.
But if the Cubs try to retain him on a much short, much cheaper deal, they may find that Arrieta can get a better offer elsewhere. Perhaps in a large market that seems not to be bothered by the new CBA’s luxury tax rules.
Or so Patrick Mooney suggests in his latest, writing up Arrieta as a good target for the World Series runner-up Dodgers.
I’ll agree with Mooney on the Dodgers’ need in the rotation, despite all that vaunted depth. There’s Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, and then there’s Rich Hill (but who knows how long he’ll stay healthy and productive). Behind them, there are a slew of injured and intermittently ineffective starters that very well *COULD* generate a solid rotation, but for a big market club that just came so close to winning it all, I doubt they want to have so many obvious questions in the rotation.
Sure, the Dodgers could try to re-sign Yu Darvish, but you have to wonder if the appetite to do so will be quite the same after Darvish bombed out in two World Series starts. No, you don’t judge his future based on that, and no, you don’t make a signing decision solely on the meatballiest element of your fanbase, but it would be silly to say it’s not at all a factor.
So, then, if the Dodgers want to add a substantial starting pitcher in free agency to supplement a rotation that may very well need it, Arrieta might be a great fit.
That’ll be something to watch.
As for the Cubs and Arrieta, the next step will be the formality of the qualifying offer on November 6.