Bit by bit, the story of the Cubs’ offseason negotiations with outgoing free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta have trickled out. We knew there weren’t a lot of discussions going on, and we knew there was at least one last-minute phone call made before the Cubs signed Yu Darvish. We also knew that the final offer to Arrieta was probably in the range of six years and $120 million, and we also knew that Arrieta was never likely to take that deal.
And now, thanks to a great read from Gordon Wittenmyer, who interviewed a candid Arrieta, we have the whole picture. If you want to better understand how it came to be that one of the most important pitchers in the club’s history walked away, and how no one has any hard feelings about it, please read it. It really is a nice way to turn the page after Arrieta’s brilliant and historic time in Chicago.
Our @GDubCub traveled to Philadelphia to unpack what really happened the night before the #Cubs signed Yu Darvish instead of Jake Arrieta and what Arrieta thinks about all of it. https://t.co/4A3znk75zz
— Sun-Times Sports (@suntimes_sports) May 2, 2018
It turns out that Epstein’s call to Arrieta really did happen as other reports have described, but, according to Arrieta, (1) it was the first real conversation that offseason about a deal, (2) it came the day before the Cubs agreed to sign Darvish, and (3) it was a take-it-or-leave-it six year, $120 million offer.
Although I have no doubt that was a striking phone call, I think it says something really good about the way the Cubs viewed Arrieta.
Rather than any kind of insult, I’d argue that the take-it-or-leave-it offer was actually a high compliment. Consider that the Cubs were willing to forgo any shot at Yu Darvish if they could get Arrieta on a deal that was nearly identical to the six years and $126 million they ultimately gave Darvish. If the Cubs were willing to sign Arrieta for only slightly less than Darvish – and they would choose Arrieta first at that particular price tag – that means the Cubs were actually valuing them pretty close to equally. Sure, the earlier offseason engagement and conversations with Darvish strongly indicate that he was their preference, but you also have to remember that there was groundwork to be laid – in terms of the relationship – with Darvish that had already long been laid with Arrieta. They knew each other, and the Cubs clearly had a good sense of where Arrieta stood.
The Cubs probably knew Arrieta wasn’t going to take that offer, but they had to make it anyway. From there, Arrieta bet on himself, as he was always willing to do, and wound up with a lower guarantee, but much higher AAV from the Phillies (and some unique options/opt-outs that could open the contract up a bit). So far, he’s been brilliant for the Phillies, and his velocity has even rebounded at age 32. Good for him. May he continue to do well for the rest of his contract, save for the times he faces the Cubs.