ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Cubs should feel a sense of urgency to win now with Jake Arrieta, letting it ride with their ace for this two-year window, because super-agent Scott Boras can already see the megadeal coming.
“Every Cy Young Award winner I know got a seven-year contract,” Boras said Monday before Arrieta shut down the Los Angeles Angels on Opening Night.
This 9-0 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Angel Stadium of Anaheim showed why the Cubs believe they will be playing deep into October, the kind of dominant Arrieta performance that probably has the Boras Corp. suite behind home plate thinking in the $200 million neighborhood.
Arrieta is trying to recreate the air of invincibility that he had during an unbelievable second half last season (12-1, 0.75 ERA). It started with an efficient, low-stress workout for this freak of nature sculpted by Pilates, yoga and a new-age nutrition program.
“Numbers-wise, it’s tough to expect that — but I still do,” Arrieta said. “I expect to pitch this way every time I take the mound.”
Arrieta sliced through a lineup anchored by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, allowing two singles across seven innings and putting up six strikeouts against one walk. The Cubs pulled the plug after 89 pitches, part of the overall plan to keep Arrieta fresh for the next seven months.
That swagger and confidence inevitably spilled over into negotiations this winter, with the two sides settling on a one-year $10.7 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing and tabling discussions about a long-term deal.
“It’s like a museum,” Boras said. “You walk in and they tell you what pictures to look at — and we have our pictures. They have their pictures of how they handle talent. We have the pictures of how we handle talent. It’s always been that way.”
Boras has an understanding that the policy for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in these narrow arbitration windows is to either go year-to-year or buy out free-agent seasons.
The Cubs would also have some reservations about buying high on a pitcher who’s already 30 years old and has completed only one full season in the big leagues.
Boras would argue that simply means Arrieta has less mileage on his pitching odometer and point you in the direction of another picture in his museum: Max Scherzer.
Remember, Scherzer once reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million offer to extend with the Detroit Tigers before Boras steered the Cy Young Award winner to the Washington Nationals after the 2014 season, closing a seven-year, $210 million megadeal.
“The gradient, obviously, is about repeatability (versus age),” Boras said. “I’m going to look more at tendons, ligaments, body type, plus Jake’s remarkable conditioning. This guy is one of the most disciplined athletes I’ve ever seen. The great thing is he enjoys it. He enjoys conditioning. That’s an important part of that psychology carrying him.”
So the Cubs will play this out and hope the scouting-and-player-development system that generated instant offense can finally start to produce some pitching. And Arrieta’s camp will bet the workout-warrior routine will sustain a long, healthy career.
“There’s nothing active, but (there’s) great communication,” Epstein said. “It’s not the right time to talk about it right now, (but) I’m sure there will be times in the future. It’s just a matter of picking those spots, what’s going on with him, what’s going on with the team and maybe it’s an offseason thing. We’ll see.”
As much as Arrieta found a home in Chicago after such a rocky beginning with the Baltimore Orioles, this is still business. The timing could be great as the headliner after the 2017 season, especially with a star-studded class positioned for the following winter.
Arrieta also believed in the concept of “Embrace The Target” long before manager Joe Maddon turned it into a T-shirt.
“Hey, enjoy your status,” Boras said. “I thought (Maddon) would use something a little bit more like: ‘A Pretty Girl Always Gets Kissed.’ That’s the line I would have used.”