BOCA RATON, Fla. — Are the Cubs serious about signing Jake Arrieta to a long-term contract this winter?
“I don’t really know,” agent Scott Boras said Wednesday. “All I know is that I would say it’s fair to say the Cubs are pleased with Jake. And I’m sure that Jake’s happy playing there. So we’ll have to see where it goes.”
Those extension talks will probably go nowhere, since Boras almost always pushes his clients onto the open market and keeps comparing Arrieta to Max Scherzer, who reportedly declined a six-year, $144 million offer from the Detroit Tigers and eventually scored a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals last winter.
There’s no rush, because the Cubs control Arrieta for two more seasons and have to prioritize during the general manager meetings at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, focusing on free agents and potential trades.
If anything, the Cubs are in South Florida trying to find a way to put another top-of-the-rotation starter next to their National League Cy Young Award finalist and $155 million lefty Jon Lester for this two-year window.
“They’ve put themselves in a position where they’ve got just a budding garden of talent,” Boras said. “Certainly, they want to get better. And good for them.”
The garden metaphor sounded pretty tame for a State of Boras Corp. address, at least compared to the “Meet the Parents” and “All-Day Sucker” zingers the agent has thrown at the Ricketts family during these media sessions at fancy hotels.
“Whenever you look at ownerships and you evaluate them,” Boras said, “it usually takes time, because a part of that garden isn’t only the players. A part of that garden is the ownership.
“When you’ve been in the garden a long time, you probably know a lot more about when to move — and when not to move — than someone who’s been in it a short time.”
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Boras has always been careful to direct his small-market criticisms away from president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, praising the scouting and player-development staffs for making his clients better.
After winning 22 games and putting up a 1.77 ERA as part of an organization-wide breakthrough, MLB Trade Rumors projected Arrieta will earn $10.6 million next year as an arbitration-eligible player.
It’s not just the free agents in the $100-million-plus neighborhood, which Epstein already says would be a creative stretch for the Cubs to pull off this winter.
It’s maintaining flexibility as Boras clients like All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant — a unanimous Rookie of the Year candidate — and shortstop Addison Russell enter the arbitration system and all this growing talent becomes more and more expensive.
It’s getting aggressive and chasing every win in a division that produced three playoff teams that won at least 97 games this year.
“This is a whole new phase for the Cub ownership,” Boras said. “It’s a championship phase. It’s not a rebuilding phase — it’s a championship phase.
“And how owners react to that and what they do to garner that is a completely different thought process.”