Cubs and Jake Arrieta still need to make a deal


Cubs and Jake Arrieta still need to make a deal

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.

[RELATED - World Series? Megadeal? Jake Arrieta ready for encore with Cubs]

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.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey


Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”