Chicago Cubs Rumors: Jake Arrieta, Phillies would make a lot of sense

(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

Former Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta and the Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly “having dialogue” – and this should not surprise anybody.

Since the Chicago Cubs signed Yu Darvish to his six-year, $126 million deal earlier this month, a reunion with 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta went from improbable to impossible.

For a variety of reasons, it never seemed like the two sides ever had traction in discussions over the last couple of years. Now, Arrieta is set to take the next step in a career he turned around on the North Side.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the former 20-game winner is “having dialogue” with the Philadelphia Phillies. That’s not to say this is a done deal. Heyman points out that Philadelphia prefers a shorter-term deal and that a ‘gap’ exists between Scott Boras and the organization.

Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, is coming off a 1.9 WAR 2017 campaign. He saw his innings total, swinging strike rate, ERA and FIP all trend in the wrong direction. That being said, he again delivered in October – further reinforcing his status as one of the game’s better postseason pitchers.

Proven winners can change things

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Philadelphia, meanwhile, desperately needs top-of-the-rotation arms. First-year manager Gabe Kapler is hoping his stable of young starters turns the corner this year – and Arrieta would be the perfect guy to mentor them. Known for his unyielding work ethic and attention to detail, he knows how to lead – and how to win.

The right-hander played a critical role in turning Chicago from a laughingstock to a perennial World Series contender. It sounds cliche, but having those guys who not only know how to win, but have done so, is so important. Look at Jon Lester coming to the Cubs prior to the 2015 campaign. One year later, he helped snap the longest title drought in the history of American sports.

Plenty of promise – but will they develop?

The Phillies’ young rotation projects with big right-hander Aaron Nola heading things up. Last year, he set career-highs in innings pitched (168), starts (27), K/9 (9.9) and ERA (3.54). A former first-round pick, Nola projects to be a horse for years to come.

Behind him, Jerad Eickhoff is seeking to rebound from a tough 2017 campaign and get back to what he did the year prior. In 2016, the right-hander pitched to a 3.65 ERA in just under 200 innings for the Phils.

Former Houston Astros hurler Vince Velasquez is yet to figure it out at the big-league level. The right-hander is yet to put up a sub-4.00 ERA in his Major League career, despite having good stuff. Nick Pivetta also struggled, as opponents roughed him up to the tune of a .281 clip last season in 26 starts.

Philadelphia has more young arms behind this group, too. Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter and Jake Thompson could all factor into the rotation at some point moving forward. What’s missing? A veteran leader.

“I’m the captain now.”

At 27, Eickhoff is the oldest starter on the Phillies’ roster. As much promise as he’s shown, putting him under Jake Arrieta’s wing may very well push this young club forward earlier than expected. The National League East is in precipitous standing with the perennial powerhouse in Washington one year away from losing two of its best offensive weapons.

The New York Mets could be great. But it’s completely dependent on their pitching staying healthy. Miami has effectively jettisoned the next five years and the Braves are, similar to the Phillies, building for another sustained run.

Next: Even without Jake Arrieta, this staff could make history

Not only does Arrieta check every box for Philadelphia, but he was in this situation three years ago. Behind their bearded right-handed ace, the Chicago Cubs returned to the postseason, winning the Wild Card Game and knocking out the rival Cardinals in the NLDS.

Is Arrieta ready to do it all again?