Cubs

Scott Boras knows what 20 wins could mean for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

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Scott Boras knows what 20 wins could mean for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

PITTSBURGH — Roughly 48 hours before Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter, Scott Boras sat in his Dodger Stadium luxury suite with a smirk on his face.

The super-agent raised both his hands in the air and made the “W” and “L” signs with his fingers, preparing to answer a question about what 20 wins could mean for the Cubs and Jake Arrieta.

“Hi, Mr. Owner, how are you?” Boras said. “Is your last name going to begin with ‘W’ or ‘L?’ Because those are the only two alphabets of owners. So, 20 wins, thank you very much.”

Arrieta will go for No. 20 on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park (6:05 p.m. on CSN), trying to reduce his team’s playoff magic number and make his case for the National League’s Cy Young Award.

The win means different things to different people, whether you are a card-carrying member of SABR — or someone who views the analytics crowd as helicopter heads — or a regular baseball fan who doesn’t get into random arguments with strangers on Twitter.

[MORE CUBS: Long-term deal for Theo Epstein can wait with Cubs in playoff race]

Or the game’s most powerful agent. As Boras launched into his sales pitch — Arrieta isn’t positioned to become a free agent until after the 2017 season — he noticed one of the two Chicago reporters sitting on the couch.

“You’re laughing at me because you understand I’ve been through these (before),” Boras said in late August. “These guys sit on the edge of their chair (when) you get down to it and the (difference between) 93 vs. 88 (wins).

“You’ve got to figure out a way to get your team to the win. So when people say to me an evaluation of value — it may not be the final metric — but I’m telling you: (For) the people that own these teams, it is the metric.”

In a long and winding conversation, Boras also stressed the idea of a pitching odometer. Arrieta is at 199 this season and will reach the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career.

Boras compared Arrieta to Max Scherzer, who reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million offer to extend with the Detroit Tigers before getting a seven-year, $210 million megadeal from the Washington Nationals last winter.

[MORE CUBS: Cubs shouldn’t take their window to contend for granted]

Jon Lester, a three-time All-Star, won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, but even he didn’t have a 20-win season on his resume when the Cubs handed him a six-year, $155 million contract.

“All these pundits have said it’s a false read, this and that, whatever,” Boras said. “The reality of it is, if a guy goes to the ballpark (and) knows the 34 times that guy’s pitching, our team’s going to win 28 of ‘em — whether or not he gets the win — I want him on the mound.

“Because I got that — what? — I got that feeling. And I think that’s what Jake brings to the ballpark now. The Cubs all of a sudden are sitting there going: ‘Wow!’

“Now the components of Jake on the mound and this team and the management of the game — you put those three things together, and they’re turning (it around) and getting that done. That’s what owners look at.”

The Cubs don’t need to be in a rush and will probably prioritize allocating their resources toward another frontline pitcher, someone to go 1-2-3 with Arrieta and Lester in a potentially devastating playoff rotation. Boras likes to steer his clients onto the open market anyway.

[MORE CUBS: How Theo Epstein would fix the wild-card format]

The Cubs are 21-8 in games started by Arrieta and have around a .539 winning percentage for the rest of this season.

“I go in and (say): ‘Hey, this guy hits the post,’” Boras said. “Boom! He’s an 80-percent guy. I don’t talk wins. I talk — what? — your team’s winning 80 percent of the time he hits the hill. Now everybody else is 52 percent. Why are you paying him money? Because he’s going to do that.

“Granted, there’s offense coordinated with that. There’s defense, so many factors that are unrelated to the starter. But it’s the general theme of the team and your fan base. Because you’re selling tickets.

“If your fan base knows that they’re going to come to the ballpark and watch him pitch — and they got a good chance to win — that’s a good day for a fan. I’m buying a ticket that day. Because I want to go watch my team win.”

Arrieta (1.99 ERA) and Boras both recognize Chicago is where all this natural talent finally clicked into place — to go along with intellectual curiosity and an obsession with physical fitness — after that franchise-altering trade with the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of the 2013 season.

Now 20 wins is within reach.

“It’s hard to do,” Arrieta said. “There’s so many variables that have to kind of add up for that to happen. You have to pitch well. Your team has to get you runs. You got to play good defense. You can’t have many off nights. It means that consistently you’re going out there and you’re doing things the right way.

“It speaks of consistency, of a competitive nature, not giving in regardless of the situation and trying to win for the team. That’s the mindset — and it’s worked out to where I’ve gotten quite a few of them.”

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: