Cubs

After winning Cy Young, Arrieta says Cubs would love to have Greinke

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After winning Cy Young, Arrieta says Cubs would love to have Greinke

In the middle of November, Cubs fans can dream about Jake Arrieta and Zack Greinke at the top of their rotation next year.

“I would assume that a phone call might be made, at least,” Arrieta said. “We’d love to have him.”

Arrieta punctuated a dream season by becoming the National League Cy Young winner, making the Cubs 3-for-3 during awards week after Kris Bryant (Rookie of the Year) and Joe Maddon (Manager of the Year) took their turns in the spotlight.

But Arrieta might have been the MVP for a 97-win team, going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and putting together the best second half for a pitcher in major-league history.

That convinced the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which released its voting results on Wednesday night, honoring Arrieta over a pair of aces for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

[MORE: Maddon ready to help Cubs recruit free agents]

Arrieta finished with 17 of 30 first-place votes to win by a 22-point margin over Greinke, a pitcher the Cubs have been linked to in free agency after another spectacularly efficient season (19-3, 1.66 ERA) that suggests he will age well over the course of a megadeal. 

“Greinke is a guy that any team would be lucky to have,” Arrieta said. “He’s going to be a commodity that a lot of teams are looking to add to their rotation. Just watching from the other side for a number of years, seeing what he’s been able to do, year-in and year-out, is very admirable. Any team that doesn’t at least make a phone call would be foolish."

The Cubs met with the agents for Greinke (Casey Close) and Arrieta (Scott Boras) during last week’s general managers meetings in South Florida.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has said the Cubs will test the waters with Boras this winter to find out what it would take to put together a long-term deal for Arrieta, who remains under club control for two more seasons and is projected to make $10.6 million next year (according to MLB Trade Rumors calculations done before the Cy Young victory).

[SHOP: Get your Jake Arrieta gear here]

“It’s a definite possibility,” Arrieta said. “As time goes on, it’s inevitable (we’ll talk about the future). I don’t think that there’s a tremendous amount of angst on my part to get something done immediately. But that doesn’t mean that something can’t happen.

“Really, my focus right now is that obviously I know I’m still with the Chicago Cubs. I couldn’t be more excited and happy for the opportunities that we’re going to have as a team in the future.

“We’ll address it. We’ll talk things over. And if it doesn’t (happen), then I’m still a Chicago Cub, regardless. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where things go in the near future.”

This underlines what an unbelievable year it had been for pitching in the NL: Clayton Kershaw – a three-time Cy Young winner who went 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA and 301 strikeouts – finished a distant third in the voting.

[RELATED: Boras discusses Jake Arrieta's future with the Cubs]

Arrieta made his mark with a no-hitter on national television at Dodger Stadium, and then showing up for the press conference in a moustache-covered onesie for a Maddon theme trip, all part of an unreal run after the All-Star break (12-1, 0.75 ERA) that finally established him as one of the most dominant pitchers in the game after a rocky start to his career with the Baltimore Orioles.

“I was locked in,” Arrieta said. “My timing and my tempo in my delivery was as close to perfect as I feel like I could have possibly been.

“When you combine that timing and the consistent release point, regardless of the pitch – fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, changeup – (you’re) able to be powerful and be explosive and release from the exact same spot.

“It really, really made it easy on me. There were times throughout the stretch where I expected to go out there and throw a shutout or throw seven, eight scoreless. It got to that point where that was just something – not only myself – but the team expected it. That’s how locked in I really was.”

Arrieta spent time on the Triple-A level during the 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons, needing a change of scenery for whatever reason – the difficulty of pitching in the American League East, some friction between Dan Duquette’s front office and Buck Showalter’s dugout, an awkward clubhouse fit.

That flip deal in the middle of the 2013 season – essentially cashing in 15 Scott Feldman starts and reserve catcher Steve Clevenger for Arrieta and hard-throwing reliever Pedro Strop – will go down as a franchise-altering trade for Epstein’s front office.

“Once I was able to not worry about the moves happening above me,” Arrieta said, “or when I was going to get another opportunity, I understood that the most important thing for me to put emphasis on was just continuing to try and get better.”

The Cubs encouraged Arrieta to throw with his natural crossfire motion, gave him an opportunity to hit the reset button and watched him develop a fanatical workout routine.

Arrieta clicked with pitching coach Chris Bosio, obsessed over his nutrition and absorbed all the scouting reports, allowing him to throw almost 250 innings this year, including the playoffs.

Arrieta is now only the fifth pitcher in franchise history to win this award, joining an elite list that includes Greg Maddux (1992), Rick Sutcliffe (1984), Bruce Sutter (1979) and Fergie Jenkins (1971).

Now that Arrieta has that kind of juice, you figure Greinke will have to listen if the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner calls.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Can Jon Lester get out of his slump?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Can Jon Lester get out of his slump?

David Haugh, Ben Finfer and Seth Gruen join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs winning streak is over as Jon Lester's struggles continue. Should fans be worried that he can't get out of this slump? Would he be a playoff starter right now?

8:40- The White Sox rebuild continues as Rick Hahn says fans might have to wait until next spring to see whether or not they'll be contenders. Is next year too early to compete?

15:00- The Bears backups get ready to face the Colts backups Saturday night. Is there any reason to have the preseason at all?

18:30- Mitch Trubisky's preseason is over. So is he ready for Week 1?

20:00- College football is back. The panel give their picks for Florida vs Miami in the Fanduel Friday Faves.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs rallying behind Jon Lester after another tough outing

Cubs rallying behind Jon Lester after another tough outing

There are three ways to look at the Cubs' 9-3 loss Friday:

1) Jon Lester had another rough outing and the sun is starting to set on his career as a front-of-the-rotation starter.

2) Lester gave up some hard contact, but also had some tough luck and pitched better than his final line indicated.

3) Meh.

To be honest, each of the three perspectives has an element of truth to it, but the third one is probably the main way to look at it as the Cubs tasted defeat for the first time in a week.

No, the team did not play well, but it went far beyond Lester.

The Nationals didn't get into town until the wee hours of Friday morning, yet it was the Cubs who looked sluggish Friday. They managed only two baserunners - a single and a walk - until the ninth inning when they put together a too-little-too-late rally thanks to some shoddy Washington fielding.

But even if the offense did come to play, the game was out of hand by the fifth inning, when Lester and Pedro Strop combined to allow 3 runs, extending Washington's lead to 7-0.

Lester was charged with 6 runs on 9 hits and a walk over 4.1 innings, but 8 of those 9 hits were singles. The only extra-base knock off the Cubs southpaw was Adam Eaton's line drive home run in the first inning that he smacked into the 18 mph wind howling in off the lake.

Of the singles, a couple were hard ground balls knocked down by Cubs infielders and one was a perfectly executed bunt by pitcher Anibal Sanchez with two strikes that the Cubs had no choice but to hope it would roll foul. At that point in the fourth inning, the score was only 3-0, but the Cubs' misfortune seemed to open the door for the Nationals.

"I'm telling you, I don't think he was that bad today," Maddon said. "We were a little bit unlucky with him. ... Outside of that last inning when they squared him up, I thought he actually threw the ball decently.

"I think he's gonna be fine. He will find a way to get himself back into the picture in the right way. There's a lot of time left with the playoffs, etc., so I'm counting on it. I believe in Jon."

Beyond the tough luck, the Nationals hit five balls more than 100 mph off Lester, including a 108.5 mph single on the final batter (Juan Soto) he faced in the fifth inning.

After the game, Lester couldn't do much but shrug and accept responsibility for the loss.

"I feel fine," he said. "Today sucks. Tomorrow, I'll wake up and start a new day and get ready for another start. That doesn't take the sting away from today. Joe's always said, 'you win hard, you lose hard' and losing for me is even harder than that. Sucking as a pitcher is even harder than that.

"It's my job to do better and I'm not. I let a five-game winning streak basically go by the wayside because I didn't throw the ball very well. It's frustrating, but tomorrow starts a new day and move on to the next one."

Friday's game marks the fifth time this season Lester has allowed at least 6 runs in an outing. This was his 25th start of 2019, so that means 20 percent of his appearances have resulted in putting his team in a major hole.

"I think we're getting to the point where you can't isolate [the rough games]," Lester said. "They're happening a little bit too much for myself. I felt pretty good about myself after the last one, just being able to continually execute pitches. I don't feel like stuff was much different than last time, just different results and that's the shitty part about this game and my job - it's results driven and it doesn't matter how I feel or what the gameplan was going in.

"You have to execute and get people out and keep them from scoring runs and I'm just not doing that."

Lester started the five-game winning streak for the Cubs with a performance befitting true "ace" or "stopper" status. After a pair of disheartening bullpen meltdowns, he took the ball last Saturday and shut out the Pirates through 6 innings, battling despite not having his best stuff (5 walks).

But even including that start in Pittsburgh, Lester has now allowed 23 earned runs in 24.1 innings in five starts in August.

For a 35-year-old with three World Series rings and a long track record of pitching well when the lights are the brightest, he isn't where he wants to be as September approaches in a tight playoff race.

"Better than this," he said. "Usually this is the time of year where I pitch a lot better than I have been. For whatever reason, I haven't hit that stride. I usually have ups and downs to every season, but usually more ups than downs.

"Right now, it's just continuing to go down. The old saying - one step forward, two steps back - is kinda what I'm doing right now. The positive is I physically feel fine. Can't blame it on that. Just have to be better. Tomorrow's a new day, prepare for the next one."

Even with the recent struggles, Kyle Schwarber said Lester is still the guy the Cubs would want to give the ball to in Game 1 of a playoff series.

"He'll bounce back," Schwarber said. "He knows how to handle himself really well. He's a leader out there and we always have his back."

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