MESA, Ariz. — Jake Arrieta still doesn't have a job.
While that's extremely unusual with spring training already underway, it's the reality of this ridiculously inactive offseason. The guy who the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 and who helped the Cubs to three consecutive NL Championship Series and that curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 is still waiting to suit up. Meanwhile, his former team moved on in dramatic fashion earlier this week, signing Yu Darvish to a six-year contract.
But Arrieta's name isn't forbidden in the Cubs' clubhouse or anything, and one of his friends and former teammates was asked about what the heck is going on.
“It’s strange. I don’t think anybody knows what to make of it, it’s kind of just the way the market has gone this offseason and that’s what it is," infielder Tommy La Stella said Friday. "He’ll land somewhere, obviously, and it’ll be the right fit because that’s just kind of the way these things go.
"He’s a great competitor and a great player, so it’s going to be tough to imagine him falling into a situation that doesn’t line up.”
Arrieta should have been a huge splash this winter for a team needing an upgrade in the starting rotation, and he still will be whenever he signs. But when that signing comes is anyone's guess right now. The game of chicken between baseball's teams and free agents has been broken at times throughout this offseason — most notably by the Cubs with Darvish, the Milwaukee Brewers with outfielder Lorenzo Cain and the Philadelphia Phillies with slugger Carlos Santana — but Arrieta and a host of other big names remain unsigned.
Of course Arrieta will always be linked to Darvish, the guy the Cubs went with instead of bringing back one of their aces from three straight playoff runs. Until the games start counting, there will be a debate over whether the Cubs' front office made the right decision.
“I don’t think there’s any miscalculation on their end, to be honest," La Stella said. "They’re very calculated with everything that they do. They weigh the pros and cons of everything. Any time you’re going to miss out on anything, obviously you stand to gain somewhere else. So I think that’s what the situation was.”
It's possible Arrieta could land elsewhere in the NL Central, as the Brewers have been linked to him throughout the offseason as they search for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher to better compete with the Cubs for the division crown.
Seeing his former team often throughout the next few seasons would probably fire him up. But wherever Arrieta lands, this is a famously focused guy who worked like crazy to not just get in incredible shape but to go from a trade piece in the Scott Feldman deal to the most dominant pitcher in the game for a spell.
“He’s never lacking in motivation. He always goes out there and pitches with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder," La Stella said. "I think that’s what makes him so good. I’m sure he’ll take a little bit from it.”