Given the creative and tight-lipped nature of the Cubs front office, it’s often hard to predict exactly what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have in mind for a particular offseason. We can usually do some well-informed speculating, but when it comes to certainty, we rarely have it.
However, after the free-agent exits of starters Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, it’s clear that the Cubs will need to add at least two starting pitchers to the roster, one of whom probably needs to be at least a sure-fire middle-of-the-rotation talent.
And to that end, you might wonder why they don’t just bring back bearded friend Jake Arrieta, especially given the intimate familiarity and recent success. Well, although the front office has said they’ll consider a reunion, and the Cubs have been connected to the upper end of starting pitcher free agency this offseason, those rumors have tended to gravitate towards some of the other available arms.
That could be because the Cubs and Arrieta remain at something of an impasse, in terms of contract demands, despite recent internal discussions. “The Chicago Cubs met at the GM meetings on Jake Arrieta,” writes Jon Heyman (Fanrag Sports), “and while they are interested, there’s still said to be a gap on the years.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because, ever since his solid 2014 season and breakout 2015 campaign, the Cubs have reportedly been interested in working out an extension with Arrieta, but have continually disagreed on the number of years.
The Cubs, as recently as last Spring Training, were looking to add, at most, four years to the end of his team control, while Arrieta (represented by Scott Boras) suggested that 6-7 years is a more appropriate extension for former Cy Young award winners (in recent history, he’s kinda not wrong about that). Unfortunately, according to Heyman, the same debate exists today, and it’s put a pin in the conversations for now.
But can you blame either side?
Jake Arrieta is one of the top two free agent starting pitchers available this winter, and will more likely than not get a six-year deal when all is said and done from a team that desperately needs to add a front-of-the-rotation arm right now.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have three starting pitchers that arguably slot into the front three spots in the rotation already, have a number of financial considerations over the next few years, have multiple needs in the back of the rotation to cover, and also can see a number of other options available to them in free agency. Even if the Cubs are not willing to dive into the deep end of free agency for the similarly talented starter in the same price/talent range as Arrieta (Yu Darvish), they could always go with middle-to-back-end types like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. There’s also the plausibly robust trade market.
In the end, I think Arrieta would obviously make sense for this Cubs team on the right deal, but the confluence of other options (for both sides) might make agreeing on the length of a deal a bit tricky. So until someone’s market dries up, this might be a difficult reunion to pull off.