What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

Jake Arrieta in a Brewers uniform?

That's not a sight Cubs fans would like to see, but the North Siders' I-94 rivals are apparently keen on trying to add Arrieta, the free-agent pitcher who's been one of the National League's top arms for the past several seasons.

The Cubs have their own decision to make on whether or not they're going to pursue re-signing Arrieta, a guy who over the past three seasons has posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out 589 batters, winning 54 games in 94 starts for a team that won the 2016 World Series and has advanced to three consecutive NL Championship Series.

The downside to losing Arrieta is obvious, as the Cubs would lose a huge part of their formidable starting rotation, but there would be an added downside if Arrieta were to remain in the NL Central and repeatedly haunt his former team.

Given Arrieta's track record, adding him would make sense for any team in the majors, but the Brewers in particular could use a front-of-the-line starting pitcher to boost their chances of besting the Cubs for the Central crown. The Brew Crew staged a surprising threat to do just that in 2017, perhaps proving that their rebuilding effort has yielded fruit ahead of schedule.

But there are questions in that rotation, with Jimmy Nelson expected to miss time next season after having shoulder surgery. Chase Anderson was great last season, and Zach Davies was solid, too. Brewers starters posted an ERA of 4.10 on the season, good for fifth in the NL. The four teams ahead of them, including the Cubs, all made the playoffs. Adding an arm as good as Arrieta's could make the difference in jumping past the Cubs in the Central and getting the Crew to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

And it'd be a plus for the Brewers to make it so Arrieta couldn't shut down their hitters anymore. In 15 career starts against the Crew, Arrieta is 8-4 with a 2.74 ERA. However, they'd surely love to have him call Miller Park home. He's never lost there in five starts, boasting a 2.03 ERA with 30 strikeouts.

There's an argument to be made that Arrieta would be able to seek revenge on the Cubs no matter what team he ends up pitching for, be it an NL team facing off against the Cubs in the playoffs or an American League squad meeting the Cubs in the World Series. After all, as Scott Boras put it, signing Arrieta is a ticket to "Playoffville."

But should Arrieta make the short drive to Wisconsin and set up shop in America's Dairyland, turning the Brewers into a legitimate playoff contender and challenger to the Cubs' grip on the NL Central crown? Well, consider the Cubs-Brewers rivalry cranked up to 11.

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Does Jake Arrieta transform Phillies' playoff hopes?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Does Jake Arrieta transform Phillies' playoff hopes?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Philadelphia Phillies

2017 record: 66-96, last place in NL East

Offseason additions: Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Drew Hutchison, Will Middlebrooks

Offseason departures: Daniel Nava, Clay Buchholz, Hyun-Soo Kim, Freddy Galvis

X-factor: Odubel Herrera

Rhys Hoskins won't continue to hit homers at such a historic rate, but everything points to another very strong season for the young outfielder/first baseman.

Instead, it's Herrera who enters the season with the most questions surrounding his impact. He's penciled in as the Phillies' No. 3 hitter in his age-26 season and saw regression in 2017 in strike zone organization.

Herrera's walk rate was cut nearly in half and saw an increase in strikeouts. As a result, his on-base percentage dropped 36 points despite a batting average just 5 points lower than 2016. He did flash more power (59 extra base hits compared to 42 in '16), but he will need to correct the recent trends of patience at the plate if the Phillies are actually going to take a step forward this year.

Projected lineup

1. Cesar Hernandez - 2B
2. Carlos Santana - 1B
3. Odubel Herrera - CF
4. Rhys Hoskins - LF
5. Nick Williams - RF
6. Maikel Franco - 3B
7. Jorge Alfaro - C
8. J.P. Crawford - SS

Projected rotation

1. Aaron Nola
2. Jake Arrieta
3. Vince Velasquez
4. Nick Pivetta
5. Ben Lively


The Phillies are probably at least a year away from being legit contenders, but adding Arrieta was a huge step in that direction. This team needed more starting pitching and they got it with the second-best starter on the free agent market.

The Santana signing was curious given Philly already had Hoskins at first base, so they have to pray the kid won't miss a step adjusting to a full-time role in left field. Santana is a very good player and still only 31, so it's not a bad move at all.

The rest of the Phillies lineup features a bunch of young players beginning their post-prospect life, packed with a bunch of questions. Franco and Crawford were projected to be stars and Alfaro and Williams very well could be important pieces in the core. But 2018 will feature growing pains with a lineup featuring five players under the age of 26. 

Hernandez is one of the more underrated players in the game — a solid leadoff hitter who has turned into a very patient player. With a full season of at-bats, he and Santana could combine for over 200 walks.

The starting staff is still lacking depth, but if Velasquez can actually stay healthy for once, that would go a long way toward legitimizing this staff.

The bullpen is solid with Hector Neris set for the closer's role and veteran additions Hunter and Neshek helping bridge the gap.

Even if the Phillies don't make the postseason in 2018, their time is coming and they would be a scary team to face this summer when they're hot.

Prediction: 4th in NL East, no playoffs

Which Cubs and White Sox players are included in MLB The Show 18's player rankings?


Which Cubs and White Sox players are included in MLB The Show 18's player rankings?

MLB The Show 18 apparently is not high on too many Cubs and White Sox players entering the 2018 season.

Thursday, Playstation released the Top 10 players in MLB The Show 18 position-by-position. Of the 10 positional groups (including starting and relief pitchers), only five Chicago players are included in the Top 10 at their respecitve positions (three Cubs, two White Sox). 

Kris Bryant is highest ranked Cub and the third-best third baseman in the game with an 86 rating. Anthony Rizzo is ranked as the third-best first baseman with an overall rating of 85, while Willson Contreras is ranked as the fourth-best catcher with a rating of 83.

For the White Sox, Jose Abreu is ranked the eighth-best first baseman with an 82 rating, while Avisail Garcia (79 rating) is ranked the ninth-best right fielder. 

The Chicago player rankings are quite odd in comparison to other players ranked in the Top 10 at their various positions. For example, Jose Reyes (79 rating) is ranked as the 10th best shortstop in the game. Reyes is a .286 career hitter, but he is coming off of a season in which he hit .246 in 501 at-bats.

While Addison Russell had a down year in 2017 (.239/.304/.418), it seems safe to say that he is a better player than Reyes at this point. And even if Russell is not worthy of a Top 10 ranking, there is a case to be made for other shorstops (i.e. Zack Cozart, Brandon Crawford, Jean Segura) to be ranked above Reyes.

Similarly, Kris Bryant's 86 rating is quite low considering that he was rated 94 in MLB The Show 17. While his home run and RBI totals both decreased slightly from 2016, Bryant still put together an all-around great 2017 season. He led MLB third basemen in walks (95) and runs (111) while also producing a slash line of .295/.409/.537.

Ultimately, the ratings and overall rankings must be put into perspective. Mike Trout's rating (93) is the highest in the game, yet even he experienced a drop from his 99 rating in MLB The Show 17. 

The ratings for Bryant, Rizzo and Abreu seem low, but Nolan Arenado (90) leads all third basemen, while Joey Votto (87) is best among first basemen. Basically, the various Cubs and White Sox players are not rated too far behind the best.

Here are the complete position-by-position rankings for MLB The Show 2018: