The headline-grabbing move out of Cubs Convention won’t be the megadeal that keeps Jake Arrieta pitching at Wrigley Field for the rest of his career.
Theo Epstein’s front office and Boras Corp. couldn’t even agree on a one-year deal before Friday’s deadline to formally exchange arbitration numbers, with the Cubs filing at $7.5 million and Arrieta countering at $13 million.
So far, Epstein has never taken an arbitration-eligible player to a hearing. That track record includes his first four years running baseball operations for the Cubs and his nine years as the Boston Red Sox general manager.
On paper at least, this is a huge gap between Arrieta’s camp and an organization that helped him blossom into the National League’s Cy Young Award winner last year.
“I know the spread seems big,” Epstein said at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. “But the filing numbers don’t always represent the offers. And there’s kind of an art to the filing numbers where you try to massage the number to a midpoint that makes a lot of sense.
“In this case, if you focus on the spread, you’re kind of missing the story (because) it provides a lot of room for further discussion. I would be extremely hopeful that we could get something done to avoid a hearing because Jake deserves a really big raise.
“I have nothing but the best things to say about him. His performance last year – and as a Cub – speaks for itself. He’ll be deservedly rewarded by the system.”
Super-agent Scott Boras could set a new arbitration record for his record-setting client after Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and accounted for almost 250 innings (including the playoffs). Arrieta made $3.63 million last season, finally establishing himself at the age of 29 as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Realistically the Cubs are looking at a two-year window with their ace – and maybe their best chance to win a World Series with this nucleus – before Arrieta can hit the free-agent market.
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“With the number they filed, it seems like a long-term deal wouldn’t happen, but you never know,” Arrieta said. “Everything will work itself out. We have a really good case. I’m confident with it. So if it does get to the hearing, I think we’re in good shape.”
The Cubs settled their other six arbitration cases, making one-year deals with left-hander Travis Wood ($6.17 million), outfielder Chris Coghlan ($4.8 million), setup guy Pedro Strop ($4.4 million), closer Hector Rondon ($4.2 million), swingman Adam Warren ($1.7 million) and reliever Justin Grimm ($1.275 million).
But Arrieta’s final number is the one that could have enormous ramifications for the entire industry.
“We’ll see where it leads,” Epstein said. “If we go to a hearing, we go to a hearing. We wouldn’t go in and pick holes in Jake Arrieta’s performance as a Cub, that’s for sure. We think he had an historic season (and) deserves a huge raise.”