Cubs and Jake Arrieta still need to make a deal


Cubs and Jake Arrieta still need to make a deal

The headline-grabbing move out of Cubs Convention won’t be the megadeal that keeps Jake Arrieta pitching at Wrigley Field for the rest of his career.  

Theo Epstein’s front office and Boras Corp. couldn’t even agree on a one-year deal before Friday’s deadline to formally exchange arbitration numbers, with the Cubs filing at $7.5 million and Arrieta countering at $13 million.

[RELATED - World Series? Megadeal? Jake Arrieta ready for encore with Cubs]

So far, Epstein has never taken an arbitration-eligible player to a hearing. That track record includes his first four years running baseball operations for the Cubs and his nine years as the Boston Red Sox general manager.

On paper at least, this is a huge gap between Arrieta’s camp and an organization that helped him blossom into the National League’s Cy Young Award winner last year.

“I know the spread seems big,” Epstein said at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. “But the filing numbers don’t always represent the offers. And there’s kind of an art to the filing numbers where you try to massage the number to a midpoint that makes a lot of sense.

“In this case, if you focus on the spread, you’re kind of missing the story (because) it provides a lot of room for further discussion. I would be extremely hopeful that we could get something done to avoid a hearing because Jake deserves a really big raise.

“I have nothing but the best things to say about him. His performance last year – and as a Cub – speaks for itself. He’ll be deservedly rewarded by the system.”

Super-agent Scott Boras could set a new arbitration record for his record-setting client after Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and accounted for almost 250 innings (including the playoffs). Arrieta made $3.63 million last season, finally establishing himself at the age of 29 as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Realistically the Cubs are looking at a two-year window with their ace – and maybe their best chance to win a World Series with this nucleus – before Arrieta can hit the free-agent market. 

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“With the number they filed, it seems like a long-term deal wouldn’t happen, but you never know,” Arrieta said. “Everything will work itself out. We have a really good case. I’m confident with it. So if it does get to the hearing, I think we’re in good shape.”

The Cubs settled their other six arbitration cases, making one-year deals with left-hander Travis Wood ($6.17 million), outfielder Chris Coghlan ($4.8 million), setup guy Pedro Strop ($4.4 million), closer Hector Rondon ($4.2 million), swingman Adam Warren ($1.7 million) and reliever Justin Grimm ($1.275 million).  

But Arrieta’s final number is the one that could have enormous ramifications for the entire industry.

“We’ll see where it leads,” Epstein said. “If we go to a hearing, we go to a hearing. We wouldn’t go in and pick holes in Jake Arrieta’s performance as a Cub, that’s for sure. We think he had an historic season (and) deserves a huge raise.”

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."