Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta on-track for new agreement
Despite being over $5 million apart in figures last week, don’t expect the Chicago Cubs and Jake Arrieta to reach an arbitration hearing.
This weekend, the fact that the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and the Cubs were so far apart in arbitration figures for next season took a back seat to the raucous atmosphere that is Cubs Convention.
With Cubs Con wrapping up for the year and Spring Training roughly a month away, though, focus will turn back toward contracts, potential last-minute additions to the roster and other things of that nature.
Along with Arrieta, Chicago still needs to complete a contract extension with President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who is entering the last season of his initial five-year deal. However, based on remarks made by ownership this weekend, that’s essentially a foregone conclusion at this point.
And, as far as I’m concerned, the same can be said for Chicago and Arrieta, who is coming off a 22-win campaign.
That’s not to say the two sides will be announcing a long-term contract extension in the coming weeks. While there will surely be discussions regarding such matters, with two years of team control before he hits the market, Arrieta will likely settle for a one-year arbitration deal for 2016.
When the two sides exchanged figures, Arrieta and agent Scott Boras came in at $13 million for a salary this year, while the Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein countered at $7.5 million – a number everyone knows will not be the final one penned onto the right-hander’s contract moving forward.
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Over the course of the last year-plus, the 29-year-old ace has been nothing short of dominant, emerging as one of – if not the – best starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball.
Since the start of the 2014 season, Arrieta has made 58 starts for Chicago, compiling a 2.08 ERA, 0.915 WHIP and 403 strikeouts in the process – giving the team its first legitimate ace in years.
Last season, his second-half performance was among the best in the history of the game, when he pitched to a 13-1 record and 1.61 earned run average down the stretch, leading the Cubs to the NLCS. For that very reason, his camp feels confident in its chances at a major pay raise.
"“It’s not going to be $7.5 [million],” Arrieta said. “We’re far apart, but that’s how these things go. They have their numbers, we have ours. We like our case. At the end of the day, something will get worked out.”"
MLB Trade Rumors projected the Cubs right-hander to bring home $10.4 million via the arbitration process this year. Oddly enough, that’s fairly close to the mid-point of the numbers exchanged by the two sides.
Assuming Epstein and his team don’t get a long-term extension done with Arrieta prior to the season, he could very well be making a dangerous gamble. Another Cy Young-caliber campaign from the right-hander and he could become one of the most valuable free agent pitchers of the 2018 class.
When you take into account the Chicago Cubs have never gone to an arbitration hearing under Epstein and pair that with the amount of money the front office has already doled out this winter, they won’t risk a hearing over a couple million dollars.
Chicago will step up and the two sides will meet in the middle – right around that $10 to $10.5 million mark for the 2016 season. Then, focus will turn back to the task at-hand: bringing a World Series to the North Side.