MESA, Ariz. – Scott Boras compared Jake Arrieta to Max Scherzer before his other client had captured a Cy Young Award, made an All-Star team, won two World Series games…or even finished a full season in the big leagues.
This was August 2015 in the Boras Corp. suite at Dodger Stadium, roughly 48 hours before the onesie no-hitter on ESPN. So, yeah, Scherzer's seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals will become part of the backdrop when/if the Cubs engage in full-scale negotiations with Arrieta's camp.
Arrieta will be 32 by Opening Day 2018, though Boras will point to the pitching odometer (roughly 1,000 innings so far). Subtle isn't the default setting for a super-agent, but another pitch can be made around the idea of Arrieta's know-how, intellectual curiosity, nutrition program and Pilates regimen.
All those attributes make Arrieta think he could pitch until he's 40.
"Look at (John) Lackey," Arrieta said, amplifying his comments made to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and MLB Network. "He says he's going to retire after this year, but watch him throw. He's healthy. He’s got velocity. He knows how to pitch. He's got great command.
"If he wanted to, he could probably pitch another three years. Rich Hill signed a three-year deal. He's going to pitch until he's 40. If I want to, I think I'll still be able to. Why not? I might not want to, though.
"At that point, I'm going to have kids that are in need of coaches. It would be nice maybe to spend a little bit more time with them and be a part of their sports and taking them to practice in an Aerovan or Astro Van or whatever it is."
When a reporter said that a juice bar can't run itself, Arrieta joked about his many off-the-field interests: "Yeah, I'm looking for good people. If you need a job…let me know."
Arrieta will still be his own best advocate – more persuasive than any glossy Boras Corp. binder – with another Bob Gibson-esque performance in his walk year. Arrieta cruised through five innings against a Triple-A squad from the Los Angeles Angels on Friday afternoon at the Sloan Park complex and understands that he will have to make concessions and keep adjusting.
"You evolve," Arrieta said. "I've heard since my rookie year that all you got to do is put it in the zone and you're going to get guys out. So as I've gotten a little older, I've really started to embrace that and pitch accordingly.
"I was close to 100 (mph) in college, but you don't need that. Low-to-mid 90s, four pitches, some maturity, a good scouting report, a good catcher, that's all you need."
This might be the biggest takeaway from an All-Star season where Arrieta went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and still went through stretches where the Cubs didn't really know what they were going to get from start to start.
"I didn't have my A-stuff half the year last year," Arrieta said. "It doesn't matter, though. There are still plenty of ways to get guys out, changing speeds, changing eye level, relying on movement versus high-end velocity. I didn't have my cutter for a good part of the year. That's a pretty good sign.
"It's not a guarantee that you're going to have certain things, even for a season. It might sound crazy. But I guarantee if you talk to (Jon) Lester or Lackey, they can probably name you two or three seasons where they missed a pitch or maybe even two.
"Pitching is a crazy job. You can completely lose it for no rhyme or reason. It just kind of happens. And then out of the blue, there it is again. Regardless of the work you put in, sometimes it just kind of eludes you. You just keep working."
Too soon to start the "Grandpa Jake" Instagram account?
"I'm hoping I don't have a salt-and-pepper beard," Arrieta said. "I don't have the best hair anymore, but I'm hoping this stays dark. But, yeah, I'll be a grandfather to these kids in five or six years. Why not?"
Because Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer haven't shown that type of appetite for a long-term deal yet, and Boras can't go over their heads to chairman Tom Ricketts, who leaves those decisions to baseball operations.
"It would be cool, for sure, but the business is the business," Arrieta said. "They're not dummies. They do what they do. There's a rhyme and reason for why they make the moves they do. They have to put what they feel is the team's best interest and the organization's best interest first.
"I would do the same thing. That's just something that they will decide one way or another, which way they want to go. And then we'll handle it.
"Something could come up. Something might not come up. Both are OK."