Chicago Cubs: Suggesting a Jake Arrieta return is a far-fetched delusion

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With mere weeks till the season begins, former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta remains unsigned. Thinking he’ll return, though, is about as illogical as it gets.

Calling the events of this offseason unprecedented is pretty accurate. Here we are, a week into March and multiple top-tier free agents remain unsigned. The last major free agent signing? The Chicago Cubs’ six-year deal with right-hander Yu Darvish worth $126 million.

The man he replaced, Jake Arrieta, though, seems unlikely to crack an Opening Day roster. The Cubs open the Major League Baseball regular season slate three weeks from today with a matchup against the Miami Marlins. Depending on how Arrieta has been working out and where he’s at in his throwing program, it’s entirely possible he wouldn’t be ready by that time – regardless of where he signs.

This week, Evan Massey of the Inquisitr penned an outlandish piece suggesting Arrieta signing a one-year deal is in his best interest. Here’s the culmination of his argument:

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"Quite simply, this offseason has been one of the slowest in recent history. Teams have been trying to save money for next offseason, with a very talented crop of free agents ready to hit the market. If Arrieta takes a one-year deal and puts up yet another big year, his value will skyrocket next offseason when teams are throwing more money around."

Okay, fine. The offseason is slow. That’s a given. He’s also right in saying that teams are stockpiling for the 2019 are agent class – one that features the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and, potentially, Clayton Kershaw.

Going all-in on 2018

But here’s where the other foot falls. If Arrieta takes a one-year deal and has an outstanding year, he could strike it rich. I’m sorry, but that’s a helluva leap to make given what all the numbers indicate.

Since his Cy Young 2015 campaign, virtually every metric trended in the wrong direction for Arrieta. He’s pitched fewer innings with each passing year. His ERA, FIP and swinging strike rate all got much worse, too. And that’s not even the end of it. He lost three MPH off his average fastball velocity which, in turn, leads to his off-speed stuff being less effective.

His hard-hit rate is up nearly 10 points and his ground ball percentage has plummeted 11 percent in just a few years. With an intensely demanding delivery, there’s no way Arrieta is an ace through his 30s. As much as I love the guy, it’s just not going to happen.

Too late to throw it all away

So, in taking a one-year deal with the Cubs, he is betting the last four years of above-average (and sometimes dominant) results on the outcome of one season. He’s worked too hard, come too far to make such a foolhardy gamble with his future.

Despite the above metrics, he gutted his way through 2017 with respectable numbers – enough to land him a respectable deal. Scott Boras would be a fool to let Arrieta throw it all away by giving in to teams’ front offices and this offseason’s waiting game.

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This is a guy who pulled himself back from the brink. He was barely a serviceable big-league starter in Baltimore. He turned himself around in Chicago – but that alone is far from a reason to jettison hopes of a multi-year deal and settling for an all-in one-year contract.