Cubs

Why Jake Arrieta’s countdown to free agency shouldn’t become a distraction for Cubs

Why Jake Arrieta’s countdown to free agency shouldn’t become a distraction for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta’s machismo and sense of loyalty to Boras Corp. means he will very likely become a free agent – a source confirmed the Cubs don’t have any ongoing extension negotiations or scheduled talks – but he’s still willing to listen to the pitch.    

“I think there’s an open dialogue there,” Arrieta said before Wednesday’s first formal workout for pitchers and catchers at the Sloan Park complex. “I believe we will have talks. (But) it’s not my No. 1 priority.

“I just wanted to focus on my health and coming into camp as well-rested and in as good a shape as I possibly can. That’s the position I’m in. If we have those conversations, we’ll sit down and hash some things out, see if we can get something worked out.

“If it happens, great. If not, I’ll continue to move forward, take it day by day and focus on being as good as I can.”

The expectation is that Arrieta – who will be 32 years old by Opening Day 2018 – will test the market after this season as part of a rich pitching class that could also include Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka and Johnny Cueto.

Making it through a long spring training in Arizona, another season in the 200-inning range and what the Cubs hope will be a deep playoff run is essential for someone super-agent Scott Boras has compared to another Cy Young Award-winning client: Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals’ $210 million ace.

Even if Arrieta never reaches that stratosphere, there could be the sense that he doesn’t have that much left to accomplish in Chicago. And the Cubs might already be scared off by the long-term commitment, feeling like they maxed out their returns and won the lottery with that Scott Feldman flip deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

“Time flies really quickly,” Arrieta said. “It feels like only a few months ago that I was traded over here and starting my career as a Cub in 2013. I’ve had some incredible experiences with this organization. I owe a lot to this team and this organization and the ownership.

“I don’t want to see that time come to an end – my time as a Cub – but unfortunately the business side of the game shows its head every once in a while.

“I still think there’s opportunity and chances that we can have good conversations as far as an extension’s concerned and see if we can get something worked out.”   

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In terms of distractions, well, this is someone who: trolled Pittsburgh Pirates fans on Twitter before throwing a complete-game wild-card shutout in 2015; responded “Who gives a s---?” when asked about last year’s potential first-round playoff opponent; will be making $15.6375 million this season.  

“Once you get to a certain point in your career financially, it’s a little bit easier to kind of put that out of mind,” Arrieta said. “It’s not a big worry for myself individually. I think the less of a distraction that can (be) on the team – and everyone in this clubhouse – the better.

“I don’t typically like to verbalize a lot of the things from an individual contract situation, just because it can take some attention away from what we’re trying to do here collectively.”

Even without any movement toward a long-term deal, the Cubs and Arrieta’s camp also aren’t working under any self-imposed deadlines or orders to not negotiate during the season. 

“We obviously want to keep all that stuff in-house, as we would with any player,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “The only thing I would say is we have a great relationship with Jake. We’ve been super-open. He’s been here since 2013 and I think the individual relationships are all really strong and with that comes an open dialogue.”  

The bottom line is that the Cubs need a healthy, locked-in Arrieta to defend their World Series title. And Arrieta needs a strong, consistent platform season to cash in with an ace-level megadeal.     

“Honestly, it can be a positive for him and for us,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Obviously, if you’re in that year, you’re really wanting to put your best foot forward to attract the best contract (for) the next season.

“He’s all about winning. He wants to make all of his starts for the other guys in the room. That’s where his mind is at right now.

“If he makes all of his starts, just that point alone is going to mean the numbers are going to be good enough to attract a lot of suitors.

“If you’re good, the numbers are going to pop.”   

Remember That Guy? Gary Gaetti

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AP

Remember That Guy? Gary Gaetti

There have been 1,052 players in MLB history born in Illinois (or at least that’s how many we know of).  And of those players, the one with the most home runs is… Jim Thome with 612.  But the player who’s second; the player who had the “record” prior to Thome was Gary Gaetti with 360. 

Gary Gaetti homered in his MLB Debut (in his first at-bat) on September 20, 1981 for the Twins.  As a rookie the following season he hit 25 long ones. He was a mainstay at the hot corner for the Twins in the 1980s, winning four Gold Gloves (1986-89) with two All-Star selections (1988-89).  He was part of the 1987 World Champions (and was ALCS MVP).  By the time the Twins won their second World Series in 1991, Gaetti was in California with the Angels.  In 1995 at age 36 he had a renaissance for the Royals with 35 home runs and collected his lone career Silver Slugger before moving onto the Cardinals for the next few seasons. 

After being released by the Birds in mid-1998, Gaetti arrived on the North Side where he hit 17 home runs in 150 games (in 1998-99). In that 1998 season, he was a teammate of both Mark McGwire (who hit 70 HR for the Cardinals) and Sammy Sosa (who hit 66 HR for the Cubs). He remains the last player age 40 or older to homer in a Cubs uniform (all 17 of his home runs with the Cubs came after he turned 40).  Gaetti even made an appearance on the mound for the Cubs to close out what would end up a 21-8 rout at the hands of the Phillies on July 3, 1999 at the Vet.  He allowed two runs, including a solo home run by Marlon Anderson and an RBI triple by Doug Glanville. Gaetti concluded his MLB career with five games for the Red Sox in 2000.

After his retirement as a player, Gaetti had some coaching gigs in the minors and majors. In 2012, when 50-year old Roger Clemens came back to make two starts for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, Gary Gaetti was the manager, as he was three years later when 50-year old Rafael Palmeiro played a game for the Skeeters. Gaetti led the team to the Atlantic League championship in 2016.

Quite a career.

Glanville Offseason Journal: Traded in the offseason, but life goes on

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AP

Glanville Offseason Journal: Traded in the offseason, but life goes on

My mom’s father, my grandfather, in his North Carolina accent, used to ask me nearly every time I saw him.

“You still hittin’ that ball?!?!”

He knew my brother took extensive time to groom me in the game of baseball as soon as I could walk. So he recognized early on that my passion for the game only grew with time. So when he passed away during the offseason nearing midnight into Dec. 23, 1997, it was tough. I could no longer answer his question with a baseball career update.

He passed away in the same hospital where the legendary Negro League player, Buck Leonard, would pass away less than a month sooner. It is just so happened that Leonard’s passing coincided with the day my grandfather was first admitted into the same facility. I took it as a sign as I reviewed baseball and family history thinking about how I could honor my grandfather through both.

1997 was not the offseason I had envisioned. After coming off my breakthrough major league season, my first full season as a major leaguer with the Chicago Cubs, I had hit .300 and earned a chance to be in the starting lineup nearly every day. We had an exit meeting that year in the Astrodome. Cubs general manager at the time, Ed Lynch, was blunt and honest.

He explained very clearly that the organization tried to give the everyday job to “everyone else but you,” but was complimentary in how I was able to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.

I was a speedy center fielder that was in left field for most of the season after a revolving door of our top outfield prospects didn’t quite do enough to lock down the every day role. A platoon gave me a chance to play against lefties, which grew into against righties too.

The talent was deep from my vantage point: Ozzie Timmons, Robin Jennings, Pedro Valdes, Brant Brown, Brooks Kieschnick, Scott Bullet and so on. There were a ton of a good outfielders, and when the smoke cleared, I was the one holding the starter trophy. I was hoping the offseason was a time where I could cement that status as a Chicago Cub.

So I went into the offsseason with hope. Hope that only strengthened while I was on Lake Shore Drive and heard Ed Lynch on the radio talking about my season and how the expansion of the league (1998 the league added the Rays and the D-Backs) was going to force him to make tough decisions about who to protect from the expansion draft.

He conceded that I would be seeking a significant raise after my season. Then, the minimum salary was $109,000 (I made a little more than that in year two) and because of my strong year as a second season player, Lynch was making a reasonable conclusion. I knew my agent was happy.

My grandfather’s health had been declining over time, so his passing was not a shock, but before I fully digested the loss, the phone rang around 12 hours after I got word that he was gone. Who was calling?

I took the call in the basement of my parent’s house. This was while I was in the midst of a sea of unwrapped Christmas gifts strewn all over the ping pong table, the main wrapping station in the Glanville household during the holidays. My first thought was it must be my mom, who was in North Carolina pivoting from savoring his last hours to working on funeral arrangements. My brother was with her. It already was an awkward holiday from our geographically broken family.

It was Ed Lynch on the line, telling me that I had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.

What?

I fielded all of the media calls the rest of that day. It was an all-day affair. Between the fresh news of my grandfather’s passing, the shock of being traded after finally breaking through as a starter, and the exhaustion at the idea of learning a new organization, I was not that thrilled.

In fact, one member of the Philadelphia press core finally asked me why I was sounding so unenthusiastic about being traded to the team I loved growing up as a kid. So I had to tell him about my grandfather’s passing and the reality sinking in that I was about to celebrate my first family Christmas with our nuclear family broken into pieces.

For the first time during the holidays, there was this divider in my family. Separated by life’s harsh terms. My father and I were home and my mother and brother were not. My dad and I celebrated at a long-standing friend’s house, a thousand miles from my mom and big bro, and a million miles away from truly accepting that I had been traded.

I had just completed my sophomore year in Major League Baseball and it was a moment when I felt like I had figured out some of my mechanics of the game. I was learning how to be consistent, learning the ropes about managing life in season and now offseason.

I was being traded to a team whose organization brought me great joy in 1980 as a die hard fan, a place where I could start in center field, but this was different. This was the business of baseball. The day I became a movable commodity, traded away for present value in Mickey Morandini. The Phillies were betting on my next chapter being my best years.

Can they do that? Just trade me away without asking me? Of course they can. Wait, why can they?

My 1980s memories of that Phillies championship was more than about the trophy. It framed an era. By my following that team since I was five or six, I saw that team build, I pulled my hair out when the Dodgers kept knocking them out in the ‘77 and ‘78 NLCS. But most of all, they had the same personnel. A core of players, nearly untradeable. Garry Maddox, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa and so on. They were practically glued together for several seasons.

But in the modern game of the late '90s, that dream of being drafted by a team, growing up with that organization, winning with the Cubs and retiring a Cub was no longer possible. That was how the game was evolving.

Although I was a big leaguer, I still was a fan. I still was caught off-guard even after I knew the Cubs protected me in the expansion draft. I understood that at all times, lurking were many ways in the game where I could change teams. Some voluntary, most not.

I realized that the offseason was not just this big training session to get ready for the next season. It was also a chess match of competing value. What you are worth versus what you think you are worth. The 2018 Cubs have many players asking that question. Will Kyle Schwarber be traded? Will Kris Bryant sign?

All players will experience life hitting them in the face when they least expect it. During that downtime, the reflection time, the break. That is why it can sting so much. And loss spares no one in this game, even after you hit .300. The rumors alone can eat you up.

I would attend my grandfather’s funeral and reunite with my mom and brother days after the trade. I took a moment during the time with family to make one simple declaration to the sky above.

“Granddad, I am still hitting that ball.”

Just this year, instead of Cubs blue, I would be wearing Phillies red.