MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs and Jake Arrieta are nearing a deadline of sorts on contract extension negotiations, with the reigning National League Cy Young winner saying Tuesday he and the club don’t want to discuss anything during the regular season.
The Cubs have two more seasons of control of the 30-year-old right-hander. 2017 is Arrieta’s final year of arbitration, when he can expect a pay raise off the one-year, $10.7 million deal he signed to avoid arbitration in February. Arrieta, who’s represented by agent Scott Boras, said for now he’s more concerned with avoiding a clubhouse distraction than focusing on what likely will be a super-rich megadeal.
“The 24 guys in here are more important than my contract, and that’s kind of the mindset, really,” Arrieta said. “Financially, my family and I will be fine regardless of signing a long-term deal. The money’s not on my mind at all. If it comes up, if Jed (Hoyer) and Theo (Epstein) and the front office want to talk, I’m here, we can sit down again and try and work something out.
“It’s got to be something worth signing. I think Theo knows that. I think that’s why we haven’t had a ton of conversations about it because they kind of know the ballpark where it needs to be. Whether it happens or not, we’ll see. I think both sides don’t want to deal with much of this during the season.”
Arrieta, without a long-term contract, will hit free agency after his age-31 season in the winter of 2017. If he continues to pitch as well as he has since joining the Cubs in 2013 — a 2.26 ERA in 67 starts — perhaps the benchmark for his next deal will be what 32-year-old Zack Greinke received from the Arizona Diamondbacks this offseason (six years, $206.5 million).
Even if that deal doesn't wind up being the comparison, Arrieta on his current trajectory is due for a massive payday. But he has a clear-eyed view of a baseball landscape that drops truckloads of money at the feet of successful starting pitchers.
“There’s a small window that you have as a professional athlete, and obviously you want to try to capitalize on that,” Arrieta said. “But again, where I am in my career financially, whether I signed an extension or not, we’re still going to be able to live a good life. Money can only make you so happy. We’re extremely happy where we’re at. I love my teammates, I love Chicago. Those are more important than the contract extension for me.”
Arrieta said he’ll be directly involved in any concrete contract talks with the Cubs, and vaguely said there have been discussions between the two camps, though didn’t specify when those took place.
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But with Arrieta’s focus shifting toward repeating last season’s success — he'll make his Cactus League debut Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians — he’d prefer to table any of those talks until after the season.
“I would prefer to not have a lot open dialogue about it during the season because I think it adds distractions to some teammates or the city of Chicago in general,” Arrieta said. “Once April’s here, we just need to worry about winning games. The financial stuff, I just feel like it takes away from what we’re trying to do as a team, and I don’t necessarily like that.”