LOS ANGELES – Super-agent Scott Boras hasn’t engaged the Cubs in any preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Jake Arrieta, who sooner or later could get paid like a superstar pitcher.
“I think teams know us and we know them,” Boras said Friday inside his corporation’s Dodger Stadium luxury suite. “We’re trying to focus on the season and performance.”
But Boras is always thinking big and planning for the future. Remember, Max Scherzer once reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million offer to extend with the Detroit Tigers before Boras delivered a seven-year, $210 million megadeal from the Washington Nationals last winter.
Arrieta is now tied for the major-league lead with 16 wins in another breakthrough season – 2.22 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 178 strikeouts in a career-high 174 innings – that has put him in the National League’s Cy Young Award conversation.
There’s no rush with Arrieta, who’s making $3.63 million as an arbitration-eligible player this year and isn’t positioned to become a free agent until after the 2017 season, when he will be in his early 30s.
The Cubs might want to prioritize investing in another frontline pitcher to join Arrieta and Jon Lester at the top of their rotation during this open window of contention. And Boras typically steers his clients onto the open market.
“I always tell teams when they talk long-term, we’re always happy to stay long-term,” Boras said.
Boras credited Theo Epstein’s front office and pitching coach Chris Bosio for allowing Arrieta to be himself and pitch to his strengths after such an up-and-down beginning to his career with the Baltimore Orioles.
Boras appreciated what the Cubs did in that 2013 Scott Feldman trade, a deal that accelerated the rebuilding plan and helped turn the franchise into a playoff contender.
At this point, Arrieta doesn’t have as much wear and tear on his right arm after pitching only 740.1 innings in the big leagues. Like manager Joe Maddon, Boras believes there is another level to Arrieta’s game.
“It’s like Scherzer,” Boras said. “The great thing is that Arrieta doesn’t have many innings on his arm.
“I always tell owners: The best bet for you when you want to sign players is ones that are proven – but yet are proven with lesser innings.
“Max Scherzer. Pitching odometer. He had 1,200 innings. You find me a guy that has Cy Young capabilities with only 1,200 innings in the big leagues.
“Most guys have to have nearly 2,000 innings and they’re throwing much earlier in their careers. So the idea of it is this is not an age component as much as it is a durability component.”
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
Arrieta is a fitness/nutrition freak with supreme confidence, an analytical sense and a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame.
“Yeah, some guys are just off the charts,” Boras said. “They’re going to be magically durable. They’re one of those arms. But the truth of the matter is, when you do all the studies, the hardest thing for a pitcher to do in the major leagues is to get past the fourth year.
“If you get past the fourth year, and you’re a healthy guy, you’re probably going to pitch – the numbers show – over 10 years. So we have all the data.
“It’s kind of ideal for the free-agent dynamic, because he’s a brilliant talent, and he’s had to utilize fewer innings to find the station of a No. 1 pitcher. And I think we can say that about Jake Arrieta. He’s reached the status of a No. 1 pitcher.”
It sounds like you have one of those big free-agency binders already written for Arrieta.
“We’ve done this a few times,” Boras said. “There’s a very low probability of players that can get to these levels and meet the metrics of what we’re talking about here.”