Jake Arrieta understands getting traded here changed the trajectory of his career and helped transform him into a leading Cy Young Award candidate. Now the Cubs will try to secure his future in Chicago.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein confirmed those plans to at least test the waters with super-agent Scott Boras and see what it would take to sign Arrieta to a long-term contract.
“He’s a Cub for next season. He’s a Cub for 2017,” Epstein said during Thursday’s end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field. “I’m sure there will come a point in time where we’ll approach Jake and (Scott) about seeing if we can extend that window. We’d be foolish not to want to do that.”
There won’t necessarily be a sense of urgency for either side in whatever shape those negotiations take — due diligence, trial balloon or something more serious.
The Cubs could prioritize acquiring another frontline starter to join Arrieta and Jon Lester at the top of the rotation after getting swept out of the National League Championship Series by the New York Mets.
MLB Trade Rumors recently projected Arrieta will earn $10.6 million through the arbitration system next year. Philosophically, Boras hates club-friendly deals and loves to steer his clients onto the open market.
“I like it here,” Arrieta said. “I want to compete. I want to win. And I want to win with a good group of guys — young players.
“That’s the direction this organization is going.”
Arrieta feels like the ball is in the front office’s court after going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and putting up almost 250 innings this year, including a complete-game shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card game.
“We’re not going to talk about it publicly,” Epstein said. “But of course we’ll sit down and try and see what happens. More than anything, we’re just appreciative of the person he is, the year that he had and at the very least the next two seasons in a Cub uniform.”
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Arrieta responded to pitching coach Chris Bosio, who let him be himself after getting traded from the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of the 2013 season, a sink-or-swim moment for essentially a Triple-A pitcher.
As a freethinker with interests outside of baseball, Arrieta also appreciates manager Joe Maddon, a loose clubhouse, what Chicago has to offer and how the Cubs are positioned to annually win 90-plus games.
Arrieta will be 32 years old by 2018, though Boras will point to an obsessive strength-and-conditioning program, as well as a pitching odometer that’s only around 815 major-league innings to this point.
Before Arrieta threw a no-hitter on Aug. 30 at Dodger Stadium in front of a national-television audience, Boras compared him to another client — Max Scherzer, who once reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million offer to extend with the Detroit Tigers and ultimately landed a seven-year, $210 million megadeal from the Washington Nationals last winter.
“(Jake) handled the breakthrough and the dominance with such class,” Epstein said. “(He did it) in such a generous, inclusive manner that I think it set the tone for the whole team (by) including all of his teammates after the no-hitter. And as he got all the attention down the stretch, deflecting it to the team as a whole.
“That set an amazing tone. We were really thankful for that, as well as what he did on the mound. His mindset of always trying to get better — despite being at the top — really rubbed off on everybody and will continue for years to come.”