Chicago Cubs: Is it time to simply move on from Jake Arrieta?
By Jake Misener
With a new report indicating the Chicago Cubs are still kicking the tires on Jake Arrieta, we again have to ask: is it time to move past the right-hander?
Let me begin with this. In the long history of the Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta easily ranks as one of my all-time favorite players. Everything from his story to his historic 2015 performance epitomizes what the Cubs have become: gritty, competitive winners.
So every time I hear a rumor that Chicago remains connected to Arrieta, I can’t help but get excited. That’s the fan in me. We all get attached to particular players – it happens. But the logical side of me continues to mull over the pros and cons on a near-daily basis. Does it make sense? Is Arrieta what the Cubs need to further capitalize in their current window?
Adding him certainly gives Chicago one of the top rotations in the league. After adding Tyler Chatwood to kick off the offseason, the team added a clear upgrade at the back end over veteran John Lackey. Now, add Arrieta back to the mix and this staff is downright dangerous.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
Brett Taylor over at Bleacher Nation did a great job dissecting the timeline so far on Arrieta. At least in terms of this offseason. The back-and-forth has continued for months – even before the season ended.
Musical chairs in a quiet offseason
Essentially, it’s been a revolving door tied to the Cubs. In said door, Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb join Arrieta. Early on, it seemed like a lock that Cobb would join his former manager and pitching coach in the Windy City. He still may. But reports about his asking price soured those hopeful thoughts and it’s been largely quiet since.
Darvish, meanwhile, also remains unsigned. One report suggested he may only land a four-year deal this winter. With both Darvish and Arrieta still available, it makes a lot of sense that the Cubs aren’t rushing to have a next-tier guy sign on the dotted line. As Brett pointed out, the Dodgers and Yankees seem intent on staying under the luxury tax this year.
That takes two very big players out of the picture – at least for the time being.
It also exponentially boosts the Cubs’ chances of landing their guy – whoever that may be.
Jake on a four-year deal?
If you’re Theo Epstein, which looks better? A four-year, $110 million deal or a five-year, $120 million deal for Arrieta? The higher AAV safeguards against the right-hander getting closer to 40 on this contract. But the longer term makes things easier financially – especially with next year’s generational free agent class looming.
Last season, Arrieta put up a 4.16 FIP in 30 starts spanning just 168 1/3 innings. That, by far, is his worst full-season mark in a Cubs uniform. Since 2014, that figure climbed annually from 2.26 to 2.35 to 3.52 before arriving at last year’s 4.16. His WHIP also increased over that same span – from a low of 0.865 in 2015 to a high in 2017 of 1.218.
Each of the last two seasons, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner led the league in wild pitches, as well. His strikeouts-per-nine trended in the wrong direction over the last three years, as well, leaving many to wonder if it’s worth bringing him back long-term or if we’re looking at this through graduation goggles.
A fierce competitor
I think it’s hard to be completely objective when evaluating a guy who has left such a huge mark on a franchise. Arrieta has been one of the Cubs’ best big-game pitchers over the last three seasons and undoubtedly turned his career around in Chicago.
Next: A loaded 2008 club couldn't get it done come October
He adds a certain bulldog mentality to the pitching staff – similar to what Jon Lester brings to the table. But when we’re talking about adding a third $25 million-plus AAV deal to the books for the Cubs, you need to be sure. And, unfortunately, at least right now, I don’t know if it’s worth that type of financial commitment for a guy trending in the wrong direction.