Chicago Cubs and the Jake Arrieta decision to decide the NL Central?

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

With the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals pitted head-to-head for free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, is control of the National League Central at stake?

As it seems to be year after year, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are set for battle. According to a recent report, their latest duel is centered around free agent and former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.

St. Louis and Chicago, per Bruce Levine, seem to be the two front-runners for the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner. And, it makes perfect sense when you consider Scott Boras represents Arrieta. There’s nothing he likes more than pitting enemies (or even friends) against one another.

C can almost hear the narrative as its being spun: “The future of the division is at stake here. You can’t let him sign with the Cubs/Cardinals. Shell out the money and seal the deal.”

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But let’s step back from story time with Scott here for a second. Is one starting pitcher enough to tip the scales in the National League Central?

Cardinals looking to get back to the top

St. Louis made a big splash earlier this winter, acquiring outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the salary-dumping Miami Marlins. Ozuna, somewhat under the radar, hitting .312 with 37 homers and 124 RBI.

He joins Matt Carpenter, Tommy Pham and promising young infielder Paul DeJong in the Cardinals’ order. Of course, former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler plays a big role, as well – and will form two-thirds of the Redbirds outfield along with Ozuna. If you look at the pitching staff, though, it’s clear the Cardinals need a big boost in the rotation.

Adam Wainwright is far from the dominant stud he once was. He’ll be 36 years old in 2018 and is coming off a 5.11 ERA campaign – far from what we’ve come to expect. St. Louis lost a big piece in their rotation in Lance Lynn – similar to the Cubs and Arrieta.

Carlos Martinez is the clear-cut ace in St. Louis. He forms part of the Cards’ top duo with right-hander Michael Wacha. Mike Leake is a stable back-end starter – nothing more. Luke Weaver and Miles Mikolas figure to battle for the remaining two spots if the team doesn’t add someone like Arrieta in the coming weeks.

Cubs still have the edge

Arrieta definitely evens things out a bit if you’re the Cardinals. He brings deep postseason experience and an intimate knowledge of not only the league, but the Cubs, to the table.

But when you’re thinking long-term, you have to feel confident if you’re in Chicago. The core Theo Epstein has assembled is one of the best in all of baseball. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant headline this group – and with Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana headlining the rotation, experience reigns in the staff as well.

Next: Is it time to move past Jake Arrieta in Chicago?

Even if the St. Louis Cardinals manage to pry Arrieta away from their heated rival, it won’t be enough to tip the scales completely in their favor – at least not in the long-term. Chicago simply has too much controllable talent amassed and the right man at the helm in Joe Maddon.