On Aug. 30, 2015, Jake Arrieta made history, throwing the first no-hitter by a visiting pitcher at Dodger Stadium in more than two decades. Eight months later, he threw a second no-no, this time against the Reds in Cincinnati. In his initial five-year stint with the Chicago Cubs, Arrieta was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger recipient, NL Cy Young Winner, Major League wins leader and, oh yeah, he won a little thing called a World Series ring. A decorated tenure, one might say. But on this day in 2018, any hopes for an agreement to keep him in the Windy City came to an end.
Shortly after being eliminated by the Dodgers in the 2017 NLCS, Arrieta (and Wade Davis – remember his season of glory?) both declined a $17 million qualifying offer from the Cubs, officially becoming free agents. Sure, he had slowed down a touch from his magical 2015 season, but he was still a dependable arm with a wicked cutter and fearsome beard, so it would only be a matter of time before he was picked up by someone, right?
Wrong. Time passed. Yu Darvish signed with the North Siders. Wade Davis headed west to the Rockies in what turned into a disastrous signing. One by one, top free agent after top free agent signed with a team. J.D. Martinez to the Red Sox, Eric Hosmer to the Padres. Soon, the upper echelon names were gone. Former Cub Welington Castillo came back to Chicago, albeit further south. Brandon Kinzler re-upped with the Washington Nationals. Still more time passed.
Winter turned to spring, pitchers and catchers reported to Florida and Arizona. On March 5, the Cubs beat the Rockies on following a Ryan Court (who?) go-ahead dinger. Arrieta, somehow, was still sitting at home. Wayne McDonnell of Forbes said the Nationals would be a perfect fit for the pitcher… and if not Washington, Philadelphia was the best place for him.
Jake Arrieta’s Cubs tenure certainly outpaced his time in Philadelphia
On March 11, 2018, Arrieta and America’s long national nightmare finally ends. The Phillies and Arrieta agreed to a three-year, $70 million contract. At his introductory press conference two days later, Arrieta said, “I couldn’t be happier to be a Phillie. I look forward to getting on the field with my teammates and winning some games.”
Get on the field? He definitely did that. Win some games? Well… not at the pace of previous years. Over his Cubs tenure, Arrieta compiled a record of 68-31 with an ERA of 2.86. His three years in Philadelphia came with a middling 22-23 record with a 4.36 ERA, nowhere near his ace status from merely three years before. The Phillies never finished more than one game above .500 during his tenure, and they decided to let him walk following the shortened 2020 season.
Arrieta, of course, returned to Wrigley the next season, but he was a shell of his previous self. The nadir of his second Cubs tenure came against the Phillies, where he gave up seven runs in less than two innings. The Cubs released him on August 12, and we bid farewell.
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Forget everything that happened following Arrieta signing with Philadelphia. Imagine it’s March 11, 2018. It’s a simpler time. At that point, there was no knowing what the future would hold. Then, you wondered if maybe Arrieta would become the Cubs’ great antagonist, a haunting ‘what if’ destined to haunt us for years. Unfortunately for the Phillies and Arrieta, that’s not what happened. At least he got to have a final run with the club that he made his name with.
And that’s what happened on this day in esoteric Chicago Cubs history.