Cy Young

Scott Boras unveils sales pitch for Jake Arrieta: Welcome to 'Playoffville'

Scott Boras unveils sales pitch for Jake Arrieta: Welcome to 'Playoffville'

ORLANDO, Fla. – Right from the beginning of these high-stakes negotiations, Scott Boras so obviously wants to play one free agent against another, implicitly contrasting Jake Arrieta’s big-game experience as a Cub with Yu Darvish’s awful World Series performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers.   

“I don’t want address a specific franchise,” Boras said. “But in the law, we call it ‘res ipsa loquitur.’ It speaks for itself. I said earlier in the season that while we can’t talk about nuts with the exception of squirrels and trees, I just say this: Jake Arrieta, he’s a big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.”    

Rocking a bright blue sport coat, a white dress shirt and jeans, the super-agent stood outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando on Wednesday afternoon and delivered a State of Boras Corp. address for roughly 45 minutes, dropping all sorts of metaphors about the gated community he calls “Playoffville.”

Boras spun it like this at the general manager/ownership meetings in Florida: To move to a better neighborhood – and get improved services, a new sense of security and a higher overall net worth – you have to pay more property taxes.  

That sales pitch will go nowhere with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who have overseen a renaissance at Wrigley Field, take the long-range view and understand the luxury-tax implications in the collective bargaining agreement and how that limits ways to acquire more talent.

“First of all, you have to give Theo and Tom a great deal of credit,” said Boras, who routinely criticized Cubs ownership during the rebuilding years. “They may have increased their franchise value by a billion dollars in three or four years. They have a new TV contract coming up. And they have this amazing group of everyday players that are young, gifted. They have all these choices.

“This isn’t the Windy City. This is the economic hurricane in Chicago of what the Cubs have done. It is something where with the value of the franchise, the amount of money rolling in, the revenues annually, in the future, the Cubs can do whatever they choose to do in this free-agent market and the next one. To not have championship pitchers on your team – there aren’t many of them.”

Well, the Cubs still have Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, who combined already own four World Series rings, but this stump speech wasn’t really for a Chicago audience, anyway. Boras needs to appeal to the type of team the Cubs used to be, desperate to finally win a World Series and convinced this will be the year. Boras can also market Arrieta as a Lester-like presence worth the nine-figure investment for the rotation, around the clubhouse and in October.

“There is no one with the championship-caliber numbers of Jake Arrieta in this market,” Boras said. “We know that. We have seen what great talents do in the postseason. Some do really, really well and they take that environment and win with it. And others in that environment with great ability do not do anywhere near that.    

“The goal is to win now with this team. I don’t think there’s any general manager, manager, anyone that doesn’t want a guy that’s going to win World Series games for you and elimination games.”

It’s different when Arrieta has already done it for you – from winning the 2015 National League wild-card game to beating the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in last year’s World Series – and will be 32 next season.  

[MORE: How the Jose Quintana deal changed everything for the Cubs

But Boras – who could slow down the entire winter when his clients also include J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – will find a team that believes it’s one pitcher away from winning the 2018 World Series.     

“I go back to Cleveland,” Boras said. “If Jake Arrieta doesn’t win Game 6, they don’t win. And there’s a lot of pitchers who do not win Game 6s or 7s and their teams lose and they don’t become world champions.

“Other organizations are seeking that. When you have a guy like that out there, I don’t know why you would not want him – and want him long-term – because he brings a dimension to you that few teams have.”  

The Dodgers just lost a seven-game World Series where Darvish – a heralded trade-deadline addition and the other top-of-the-rotation talent now on the open market – got 10 outs combined in two starts against the Houston Astros.

The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988 and Boras obviously rolled with a question about moving from “Playoffville” to “Championship Town.”

“There are lessons about who pitchers are in the postseason,” Boras said. “There is that defined group of stellar pitchers, Cy Young types who have won the award, been in the voting for two or three years. They are really, really good at performing at high levels during the season, and that’s a great value to a franchise.

“And then there’s the ultimate cherry on top of those pitchers that have the ability to perform in the postseason where they distinguish themselves from all others. That’s winning elimination games.

“You look at (Justin) Verlander. You look at (Madison) Bumgarner. You look at Arrieta. They have separated themselves from the pack. They’ve won the big games. They’ve won the World Series games.

“And I think when owners are looking for not only great performance to elevate them into the postseason – excuse me, ‘Playoffville’ – the theme of it is that those big games, those pivotal games where you’ve got leads, and you know how to keep ‘em, your team is winning those games.

“That, to me, is where value is for an owner. They’re all hunting for the trophy. They’re all hunting for those moments.”

This angle just might work, but it's just so much harder to see it with the Cubs when Arrieta already helped them build their dream house and put down roots in "Playoffville."

After making qualifying offers, now comes the hard part for Cubs, Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis

After making qualifying offers, now comes the hard part for Cubs, Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis

Making qualifying offers to Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis before Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline might have been two of the easiest decisions the Cubs will face all winter.

It guaranteed draft-pick compensation if the Cy Young Award winner and the All-Star closer decline the one-year, $17.4 million contract offers within the next 10 days – and that looks like obvious moves given their reputations and strong platform seasons – and sign elsewhere as free agents.   

Now comes the hard part for two 30-something pitchers and a front office that needs to do a lot of heavy lifting for a team that has won 292 games, back-to-back division titles, six playoff rounds and a World Series across the last three seasons.

We’ll find out how close super-agent Scott Boras can get to his bulletin-board quote from Opening Night 2016, when Arrieta set the tone for a championship season with seven scoreless innings in a 9-0 win at Angel Stadium of Anaheim: “Every Cy Young Award winner I know got a seven-year contract.”

We’ll see if last winter’s record-setting deals for closers become the norm – or an anomaly – after another October where relievers took center stage and managers constantly got second-guessed for those bullpen decisions.

Don’t expect anyone to hand Arrieta a megadeal that runs through his age-38 season, but this a top-of-the-rotation starter who won almost 70 percent of the time with the Cubs (68-31, 2.73 ERA), put up a 3.08 ERA in nine career playoff games and took control of his career by developing his own training program and visualization process.       

As someone who notched the final out of the 2015 World Series for the Kansas City Royals, went 32-for-33 in save chances as a Cub and threw 92 pitches (!!!) combined in his last two playoff appearances, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Davis to shoot for Mark Melancon’s four-year, $62 million contract (a deal the San Francisco Giants must already regret).  

[MORE: For the second straight year, Munenori Kawasaki is a world champion]

You know the Cubs will stay in touch with the Arrieta and Davis camps – just in case a certain market doesn’t develop or a player is left out in the cold – because that’s how this front office operates and how much this team needs pitching.

“We’d love to have Wade Davis back, and same with Jake,” team president Theo Epstein said the day after the Los Angeles Dodgers bounced the Cubs from the National League Championship Series. “They’re two quality pitchers, guys who are elite at what they do and have tremendous track records.

“When it comes to free agency – and starting to talk about prospective free agents – I always stop and recognize just how hard it is to get to free agency and how much work these guys put in to get to this point.

“It’s a right that they’ve earned and that they deserve. You may only get one crack at it in your whole career. It’s an important time for them. They have to do what they should do to put themselves in a great position going forward with their families.

“From our end, it’s easy to sit here and say we’d love to have them both back, because we would, for what they do on the field, and for what we think of them off the field, and what they contribute off the field. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

Just look at next season’s projected arbitration salaries on MLB Trade Rumors and the rising costs for 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant ($8.9 million), World Series Game 7 starter Kyle Hendricks ($4.9 million) and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell ($2.3 million).

Keep in mind next winter’s banner class of free agents, which includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and potentially Clayton Kershaw and David Price.         

This is also where the Cubs are going to feel the squeeze from the final six years of Jason Heyward’s $184 million contract. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist will make $28 million combined during his age-37 and -38 seasons, possibly as a part-time player. Jon Lester is only halfway through his totally-worth-it $155 million contract and the Cubs already know how nine-figure deals for pitchers usually end.  

So it won’t be a surprise if the Cubs try to trade for and coach up the next Arrieta, and get a little more creative with the ninth inning than simply making Davis an offer he can’t refuse.    

“You have tough choices to make,” Epstein said. “We have a lot of players getting to a different point in their careers with respect to salary structure and players getting raises. And looking even beyond next year, and considering future free-agent classes and different things we need to do to try to keep this consistent winner (going).

“We’re going to go in open-minded with an obvious desire to keep both guys, but knowing it will be complicated and seeing what we can do.”

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship Series — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.