Cubs: Jake Arrieta is out to prove he’s far from finished

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images /

When we all learned Jake Arrieta was returning to the Chicago Cubs, a lot of us thought it would bring a nice touch of nostalgia to the Friendly Confines this season.

But the bearded right-hander has other plans in mind. He didn’t come back to Chicago just to reminisce about what once was. Arrieta joined the Cubs in hopes of getting his career back on track after three disappointing seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.

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"“The last three years weren’t to my expectations,” Arrieta told over the weekend. “I had to deal with several physical setbacks. The [left] meniscus [tear] that I pitched through all of 2018, which was tough, but I didn’t want to have surgery during the season. And then in ’19, I ultimately had to have bone spurs taken out of my elbow again. So there were some slight physical limitations, but having said that, I didn’t perform the way I was capable of."

During the span of his three-year, $85 million contract, Arrieta struggled. He turned in a decent year one – albeit far from living up to the hype that came with his $30 million salary that year. Then, in years two and three he made a cumulative 33 starts, in which he worked to a 4.75 ERA and 4.83 FIP.

He’s now a full six years from hitting the 200-inning mark, one he’s unlikely to ever even sniff again in his career. That being said, there’s still a lot Arrieta can do for this Cubs team – a perfect example being his working with Adbert Alzolay one-on-one at camp in Mesa already this spring.

Cubs: Jake Arrieta knows what this team needs from him

Cubs skipper David Ross, who caught one of Arrieta’s two no-hitters during his first stint with the team, is optimistic about what he can bring to the table – regardless of what he’s done the last three seasons.

"“Do I think he’s the Cy Young-type pitcher that I saw in 2015 and ’16? I would say, right now, no. But does he have the ability to get back to a version of that? Absolutely. I don’t want to put any of my players in a box and ever minimize what their capabilities are. I know Jake feels like he can get back to that form. And that’s all that matters to me is that he’s going to work to get back to the guy that he believes he is, and that presence he carries already from having the resume he has.”"

After trading Yu Darvish and letting Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood walk in free agency, the Cubs need their 2015 NL Cy Young winner to turn in some meaningful frames this year – period.

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Chicago has a lot of question marks behind Kyle Hendricks in the rotation and Arrieta is no exception. But I’m not about to bet against him, especially knowing he’s heading into 2021 with a chip on his shoulder and a mission of redemption on his mind.