There will not be a surprise Spring Training return.
With the Chicago Cubs landing Yu Darvish, the possibility of a reunion with Jake Arrieta is now at an end. We’ll do an appropriate farewell to one of the most successful Cubs starting pitchers in a very long time when he signs with a new team. Until then, I’ll keep the focus on the Cubs, and note that Darvish completes the kind of very full rotation that no free agent is going to sign on to rejoin if he had to settle for a one-year pillow contract. The Cubs have five starting pitchers who are extremely in-the-rotation. That is not to say that Arrieta, in 2018, may not outperform any number of Cubs starting pitchers; but there is no longer a guy in the rotation that you think, “Oh yeah, that guy could go to the bullpen if there was an upgrade, or that guy could go back to AAA if there was an upgrade.”
The Cubs rotation is set, and with it, the door is closed on a Jake Arrieta return.
With that in mind, the door wasn’t already closed this offseason, despite the clear sense all along that Arrieta was not their guy. As expected, the Cubs at least stayed in touch:
cubs were in touch with arrieta, too, but decided to go for darvish at least partly due to price. there's a belief cubs can stay under threshold adding darvish's $21M aav, which may have been a factor, too.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 11, 2018
That’s a very interesting explanation, isn’t it? Although the early rumors did have Arrieta seeking upwards of a $200 million contract, the prevailing opinion seemed to be that he was probably going to get slightly less than Darvish when the final figures came in. If that’s not the expectation at this point from Arrieta and his agent, Scott Boras, then it would absolutely be another big reason for the Cubs to prefer Darvish.
So, where does Arrieta go from here? Well, I actually think that’s the wrong question, because I believe there isn’t a “from here” in this situation – as I said, everyone kinda already knew the sides were moving on, and I expect that Arrieta and Boras have been slowly zeroing in on other teams. I still think the Phillies make a lot of sense, but you’ve also got the two spurned Darvish suitors in Milwaukee and Minnesota. The questions there: are they willing to spend that same $100 million+ on Arrieta? And/or will Arrieta relent on what his expectations were (dude’s competitive like that) to make a deal happen?
Obviously the hope is that Arrieta does not wind up in Milwaukee, or GOD FORBID, St. Louis. But I also just hope he gets a good deal in a good spot, and he settles into some solid seasons. Sure, that 2015 peak will never again be reached (it was one of the best stretches of baseball in history), but if Arrieta can physically maintain his crossfire delivery, he’s going to have the stuff to stay very effective well into his mid-30s even if that premium velocity is gone for good.
And bringing things back to the Cubs, remember, they do have a little something riding on Arrieta’s future: as soon as he signs a new deal, they net an extra draft pick after the second round. Well, that is, unless Arrieta sits out until after the MLB Draft in June. If he signs after the draft, the Cubs get no compensatory pick.
The Cubs already added a selection for the Wade Davis signing, and it would be nice to get one for Arrieta as something of a parting gift. Picks at the end of the second round last year had a slot value of just over $750,000. Imagine what this front office could do with another $1.5 million to spend in the draft.