Bringing back Jake Arrieta won’t fix the Chicago Cubs starting rotation.
In the not-so-distant past, Jake Arrieta stood atop the baseball world as the National League Cy Young winner. The Chicago Cubs right-hander put together one of the most impressive stretches in baseball history, turning in a second half for the ages.
He followed that up by playing a critical role in Chicago’s historic 2016 World Series campaign, leading the league by allowing just 6.3 hits per nine, while winning 18 games and working to a 3.10 ERA in just under 200 innings. Arrieta’s Cubs career drew to a close after the 2017 campaign when he was solid, but hardly spectacular.
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His foray into free agency lasted until March 2018 when the Philadelphia Phillies swooped in with a three-year, $75 million deal. To say that deal went poorly would be a dramatic understatement. Arrieta finished his Phillies career with a 4.36 ERA, 4.55 FIP and 1.387 WHIP. His trajectory kept heading in the wrong direction more and more with each passing year – hardly what he hoped for as he hits the open market a few months shy of his 35th birthday.
Now, there was no bigger Jake Arrieta guy than yours truly back in the day. Behind Ron Santo, as I’ve said multiple times in the past, Arrieta is probably my second-favorite Cubs player of all-time. But looking to him as an answer in the starting rotation is the absolute last thing the team should do this winter.
Cubs fans will always look at members of that 2016 team with graduation goggles. After all, they accomplished something that no group of ballplayers had managed to do on the North Side since the early 20th century. That’s something that should, of course, be celebrated until the end of time.
But that doesn’t mean the future of the franchise should be dictated by nostalgia and fond memories. Bringing back Arrieta, who has been in decline for the better part of the last five years, doesn’t do anybody any good and would do little to solidify the Cubs starting rotation.
We know the team is actively shopping its ace, Yu Darvish. Chicago has had discussions with the San Diego Padres about the 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up, although we’re not sure what stage those talks are at at this time. If they do, in fact, trade him, it leaves only Kyle Hendricks atop the rotation.
Thinking a buy-low deal for Arrieta, whose effectiveness is nowhere near what it once was, is any sort of real solution is laughable. Since his historic 2015 performance, his barrel rate, sweet spot percentage and hard hit rate have all skyrocketed comparatively.
He’s not what he once was. Cubs fans – at least a large number of them – would expect him to pick up where he left off three years ago. Bringing Arrieta back into the fold would tarnish his legacy at the Friendly Confines and watching him finish his career as a shadow of what he once was just isn’t the way this story should end.