Chicago Cubs would be wise to pass on any six-year pitching free agent
By Jake Misener
A report indicates Jake Arrieta is seeking a deal in the six-year range. While nostalgia may make you think otherwise, the Chicago Cubs should pass on him.
This offseason continues to limp. No, that’s not even the word. It’s crawling toward spring training. The Chicago Cubs’ three-year, $38 million deal with right-hander Tyler Chatwood remains the highest value deal given to a free agent pitcher this offseason.
That fact in and of itself is absolutely astounding.
But while we’re on the topic of free agent pitchers, a recent report shed some light on former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. Of course, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner is testing free agency for the first time – and he’s thinking big money over a lot of years.
According to a Bruce Levine report, the Scott Boras client knows where discussions will start – and it’s illogical for the Cubs on all fronts:
"The Cubs are well aware of what Arrieta is expecting in the way of an offer, sources said. Six years and $160 million was said to be the beginning point in negotiations in November, sources said."
The $160 million I can come to terms with. Signing a guy heading into his age-32 season to a six-year deal sounds less than appealing to me personally. Of course, such a deal comes out to an AAV just a tick under $27 million.
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Unfortunately, that seems to be the name of the game today. Top-tier starting pitchers don’t come cheap on the open market. In the 2014 offseason, the Cubs gave the biggest free agent deal in franchise history to Jon Lester – $155 million. As a franchise (and a fanbase) are we ready to compare the two apples to apples?
Big game guys
Arrieta has been a stopper for Chicago come October for some time now. He carries a career 3.08 ERA into free agency. With their backs against the wall in the NLCS against Los Angeles, the bearded right-hander did what he needed to do – he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball to extend the Cubs’ season (by a day).
In the 2016 World Series, Arrieta started a pair of games for Joe Maddon and delivered in each. He averaged just under a dozen strikeouts per nine, allowing just four hit per nine. With a 0.971 WHIP, Chicago picked up victories in both of his outings.
Lester, meanwhile, brought his postseason pedigree from Boston with him to the Windy City. The southpaw had pitched in two World Series, three American League Championship Series and three ALDS when he signed with the Cubs. Not to mention, he also had World Series championship rings on two fingers.
A true stopper
I’m not quite ready to compare Arrieta and Lester to one another. But, to be fair, I can’t really fault anyone who does. The righty brings a lot of good things to the table – but I can’t justify a six-year. I understand that’s going to eliminate Chicago from contention on some free agents, and that’s fine.
Next: Who is the ace of this Cubs pitching staff?
Three-to-five year deals I can rationalize. Hope for three good years in that half-decade and move forward. But if Jake Arrieta (or even Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb) demand six years, the Cubs would be better served buying low or even sticking with Mike Montgomery.