Yesterday, we talked about Jon Heyman’s report that the Cubs were in touch with Jake Arrieta as well as Yu Darvish, but price was a consideration in the Cubs’ decision to go with Darvish.
Heyman offered a little more detail in his full write-up, and the part about the Cubs and Arrieta is the kind of story that necessarily doesn’t lead anywhere in the future (the Cubs got their pitcher), so it can comfortably make all sides look really good. And, to be sure, the focus of Heyman’s article is laying out the possible future paths for Arrieta now that the Cubs are off the table.
As a precursor to that, Heyman reports that Theo Epstein, before finalizing the deal with Darvish, made a call to Arrieta to offer him a deal similar to the Darvish one (six years, $126 million), in the event that things didn’t work out with Darvish. Arrieta, according to Heyman, declined.
You can and should read the full write-up for your own take on this story, but, for me, it immediately called to mind the discussion last week about the Cubs’ apparent lack of interest in Arrieta possibly causing disruption in Arrieta’s market. If the Cubs – who need a pitcher like Arrieta and know him best – aren’t all that interested in bringing Arrieta back on a $100+ million deal, the theory went, then how could any other suitor trust him at that price point?
Well now, voila! The Cubs were willing to go to that level, this report indicates.
Without putting too fine of a point on things, Heyman frequently seems to be … well-informed about matters related to agent Scott Boras and his clients. So, then, I very much buy that this phone call, and this exchange of information took place. Is the story being presented in the most gracious light to Arrieta, who now has a baseline to which he can point for other suitors? Yes. That doesn’t mean some variation of the tale is not true.
Now that said, do I think – all else equal – that the Cubs would have preferred Arrieta over Darvish on the exact same deal? I’m not so sure they would, even if it might be a close decision. And, even Heyman’s report indicates that the offer to Arrieta was there “should Darvish turn them down.” I think, then, we can fairly assume that any overture the Cubs made to Arrieta within the last week or so was made knowing full well that Arrieta would not accept.
In the end, both sides come out looking good here: the Cubs, by the appearances of the story, were willing to be very aggressive to retain a guy who developed into a star with them. Arrieta, by the appearances of the story, was sufficiently attractive to his former team that they were willing to offer him upwards of six years and $126 million, but he believes he could do better.
See? Everyone looks good.
What I’d like to guard against, though, is this story becoming the stuff of legend if and when Arrieta ultimately signs with another team on a lesser deal. I don’t want to see people saying, “Oh man, remember how Arrieta turned down way more money from the Cubs?!?!lulz?!?!” That’s not exactly what happened. The Cubs made a courtesy call to see what was what, even as they were down the road and preferring to complete a deal with Darvish. Arrieta understandably wasn’t in a position to be the back-up plan at a price he wasn’t ready to accept at that time anyway. Because the Cubs were already right there with Darvish, it’s not like they were going to wait for Arrieta to decide where his actual final price tag would stand.
So, then, here’s how I’ll remember this story: the Cubs sought to protect themselves with a hypothetical in the event of a zero hour disaster in the Darvish negotiations. Scott Boras and Jake Arrieta were comfortable with a version of this phone call getting out there because, contrary to any speculation out there in the market, it’s not like the Cubs were totally opposed to having Arrieta back on a nine-figure contract.