Not that you would expect him to say anything different, but it’s still worth asking the question now that he’s back. How does Jake Arrieta feel about the fact that the Cubs pretty clearly prioritized signing Yu Darvish in free agency three years ago rather than re-signing Arrieta?
Well, he answered exactly as you would think he would.
“There’s no hard feelings at all,” Arrieta said, per The Athletic. “I respect Yu Darvish. I think he’s an amazing pitcher. I respect everybody in this organization. Certain times in the game, business has to come into play and things can go one way or the other. It just happened to work out the way it did. But, man, time goes by so quickly. Now we’re here and it kind of feels like I never left. Just having the opportunity to be here again is special for me.”
Things went very differently for the two veteran righties in their three years over not-so-Cubs-overlap, with Arrieta trending down as he dealt with injury issues and Darvish trending up as he overcame early injury issues. Of course, in a dream scenario, Arrieta now bounces way back as he is health and remakes his game a bit in a familiar organization, and the prospects received in the Darvish trade totally break out into great future pieces (oh, and Zach Davies puts together a great season, while Darvish also does great things for San Diego).
I still remember that 2017-18 offseason so clearly, and it was evident from the jump that the Cubs would not be bringing back Arrieta if they were going to sign Darvish. Of course, things dragged out, and there was some interest in a reunion with Arrieta if it came at a relative bargain compared with what Darvish was ultimately going to command. But when it came time to seal a deal with Darvish, the Cubs reportedly gave Arrieta a chance to be the guy:
The Cubs made Darvish their priority after the 2017 season, though Theo Epstein did circle back to Arrieta around the start of spring training in February 2018. For a team that used to make elaborate recruiting pitches to big-name free agents, it did not seem like the Cubs were putting on the full-court press. Arrieta wasn’t necessarily ready to make a quick decision after limited contact from the Cubs that offseason.
You can understand why things played out as they did, and we can’t know for sure just what the Cubs were offering Arrieta at the time (strictly speaking, he did get a higher AAV from the Phillies than Darvish got from the Cubs, albeit at a lower guarantee ($126 million versus $75 million).
In any case, it’s just nice that even as Darvish departs, we get to see Arrieta return. Hopefully it’s a meaningful return, and a competitive year for both Arrieta and the Cubs.