Cubs hoping Jake Arrieta can turn back the clock in his return

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

Jake Arrieta is my second-favorite Chicago Cubs player of all-time, trailing only Ron Santo. When the news broke about the team bringing him back on a one-year deal Friday, I couldn’t help but get excited.

Not because I expect the right-hander to someone revert back to his 2015 or 2016 form. That’s just not going to happen – A) because his 2015 season was arguably the best ever by a pitcher, especially in the second half and B) his run with the Phillies was not great, to say the least.

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Arrieta, who turns 35 in March, made nine starts in the shortened 2020 campaign, struggling to a 5.08 ERA/4.66 FIP and 1.511 WHIP in 44 1/3 innings of work. He allowed a career-worst 10.4 hits per nine and his 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio marked his lowest since 2013, the first year of his initial Cubs stint.

His Statcast rankings, well, they don’t inspire a ton of confidence, either. He ranked in the bottom six percent of the league in whiff rate, bottom eight in xBA, bottom 13 in strikeout percentage and bottom 35 in fastball velocity. For good measure, he didn’t get a lot of movement on the heater either, ranking in the bottom 14 percent in fastball spin.

Cubs may be overpaying for Jake Arrieta

Those numbers certainly don’t seem to rationalize the reported $6 million Arrieta will earn in 2021. According to Jon Heyman, the former NL Cy Young winner had higher offers on the table, but spurned them out of a desire to return to Chicago. 

On Friday, we also saw Rich Hill, another prospective Cubs target, sign with the Tampa Bay Rays for just $2.5 million. I’m not sure what made Jed Hoyer feel like Arrieta was worth that much more, but they have to be hoping that, when paired back with the organization, he can at least get things back on an even keel.

Things really come full circle. Ahead of the 2018 season, Chicago let Arrieta walk, instead signing Yu Darvish. Fast forward three years later and it certainly looks like the team made the right call. Arrieta was awful in Philadelphia during his three-year, $75 million deal while Darvish finished his Cubs tenure with a runner-up finish in the NL Cy Young race in 2020.

Next. Crane Kenney said there was money, then came Arrieta. dark

Now, Darvish is a Padre, Arrieta is coming home and, if nothing else, nostalgia will make it fun hearing his name over the PA system at the Friendly Confines this summer.