Cubs

Cubs: Where things stand with Jake Arrieta after Stephen Strasburg’s megadeal

Cubs: Where things stand with Jake Arrieta after Stephen Strasburg’s megadeal

“No,” Jake Arrieta said, he doesn’t believe in the concept of taking a hometown discount, sending a point-blank message through the reporters crowded around his locker wanting a reaction to Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175 million extension with the Washington Nationals.

The Cubs can’t just sell Arrieta on Wrigley Field’s atmosphere, his friendships in the clubhouse and the chance to make history. Losing as a winning recruiting pitch can only go so far, and this two-year window might be the best shot to win a World Series here. Theo Epstein’s front office and the Ricketts family will have to show Arrieta the money – if the Cubs even want to make that kind of commitment to a pitcher who’s already 30 and can’t become a free agent until after the 2017 season.

“I’ve made it clear that I like Chicago,” Arrieta said before Wednesday’s doubleheader against the San Diego Padres. “I think everybody knows that. If I had it my way, I’d stay here. But that’s just one side of the story.”

More than anything, the timing of the Strasburg announcement surprised Arrieta, who is also represented by super-agent Scott Boras. The news leaked out Monday night, when Strasburg got a no-decision in a win over the Detroit Tigers, leading into Tuesday’s news conference at Nationals Park, less than six months before he could hit the open market.

“The misconception is that Scott wants everybody to go to free agency,” Arrieta said. “For a lot of guys, it’s smart to do that. As we’ve seen in the past, a lot of Scott’s clients that have gone to free agency have been very well compensated and it worked out for them.”

Like Max Scherzer, who turned down an extension offer to stay in Detroit (reportedly six years and $144 million) and bet on himself, getting $210 million guaranteed from the Nationals.

Boras has framed Scherzer as a comparable pitcher for Arrieta, saying: “Every Cy Young Award winner I know got a seven-year contract.” The Cubs are believed to be more comfortable dealing in the four-year range.

“You want to be paid in respect to how your peers are paid,” Arrieta said. “I don’t think that changes with any guy you ask. Guys want to be compensated fairly.”

Arrieta played with Strasburg on the 2008 Olympic team. They competed against each other in college, Arrieta pitching for Texas Christian University while Strasburg developed into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft at San Diego State University.

“The money doesn’t surprise me – it’s what the guy is worth,” Arrieta said. “It’s obviously a really big contract for a guy who has had Tommy John (surgery). But that’s the price for starting pitching.

“I feel like every year it goes up slightly. This year’s free-agent class of pitchers is pretty thin, and even thinner now that Strasburg’s signed early.

“That’s why starting pitching is so valuable. There’s not many guys that can pitch at the top of the rotation just floating around.”

Arrieta – a thoughtful guy who speaks in full paragraphs on just about any topic you could think to ask about – clearly sees the economic landscape and his place within it.

If Arrieta (6-0, 1.13 ERA) keeps pitching like this, starts the All-Star Game, maybe throws another no-hitter and shines again in October, then he will get a huge payday through the arbitration system after earning $10.7 million this year.

“If you look at it financially,” Arrieta said, “it’s going to be close to what a free agent would get anyways. If you look at it, it’s pretty straightforward.”

Arrieta wouldn’t rule out the idea of negotiating during the season, but it doesn’t sound like that’s a priority right now, and it probably makes the most sense for both sides to let this ride.

“Well, in a perfect world, I would prefer it be done quickly,” Arrieta said. “If it’s going to happen, get it over with and let’s go play. Sometimes, it can be an uncomfortable situation having to talk about things like this around your teammates when we’re just trying to beat the Padres today. That’s why I don’t put a whole lot of thought into it.

“If they want to talk, they know where I’m at and we can get something going.” 

When baseball executives become rock stars, the Chicago media pushes a management-friendly viewpoint and generations of Cubs fans feel loyal toward the franchise, the story becomes what the player is willing to sacrifice, just how much he really wants to stay here. 

But the other side of that narrative would be: Are the Cubs willing to make that type of commitment to Arrieta? Would the Cubs show the same faith in Arrieta and reward him the way the Nationals trusted Strasburg?   

“You know more than I (do),” Arrieta said. “I don’t know.”

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.