We’re well past the point of being surprised that there are still big free agents out there, but Jake Arrieta is a whole different animal. Other than a few low-grade rumors early in the winter, what little market there was for him has disappeared over the last few weeks. I mean, the most traction on any progress came when Jon Heyman reported that Arrieta had turned down the Cubs’ offer of a contract similar to what Yu Darvish ended up getting from them.
The situation wasn’t quite as simple as that, as the Cubs didn’t really offer Arrieta a contract that he could have turned down. In fact, they never even talked to their former pitcher in person. But Theo Epstein did touch base with Scott Boras to let him know what they were planning on doing. It was a nod of respect to both player and agent, neither of whom would have agreed to a six-year deal for as little as $126 million.
You have to wonder, though, whether they’ve begun to reconsider now that we’re 10 days into spring training. Or perhaps Boras figures his client’s would-be suitors will grow more desperate as the regular season draws nigh. That could certainly be the case for the Brewers, who have the money to pay for the rotation help they seem to need desperately. Or maybe the Nationals will view Arrieta as the key to finally winning a playoff series.
Not surprisingly, those two teams sit atop Heyman’s odds for Arrieta’s next team.
This should be scary as hell for Cubs fans, not to mention the rest of the NL East. The Nats are already over the CBT threshold by nearly $5 million, so signing Arrieta would be a go-for-broke move to leverage what is almost certain to be Bryce Harper’s final season in DC. Already boasting two Boras clients at the top of their rotation, this team is clearly comfortable working with the bristly super agent and is very used to creative contract structures.
What’s most frightening about this potential destination is that it’d see Arrieta as the third best pitcher in the rotation rather than the ace. The Nats would have all kinds of leeway in that regard and would be a very formidable playoff team with this addition.
I’m less bullish on Arrieta’s future than most, namely Boras, so I don’t think this possibility is all that bad for the Cubs. Sure, the Brewers made big improvements this season, but they’ve got a long way to go to catch their division rivals. And if Arrieta ages poorly, committing big money to him might not go well.
I’d probably give Philly better odds than this, if only because they feel like one of those teams that could make a lot of noise after a few quiet seasons. Arrieta alone won’t turn them into a contender, but he could get them closer to striking distance of the Nationals and could even help them lure future free agents. The big issue is that they might not be willing to push to nine figures or enough years to land him.
The Cards have a bunch of rotation options and appear to be more solid than the Brewers in that regard, hence the lower odds. That said, Arrieta is probably a better fit in St. Louis from a personality standpoint. As much as it’d be unfortunate for Cubs fans to see their former ace pitching for the Redbirds, it’d certainly add a new dimension to the rivalry.
Given the lengths to which they went to get below the CBT threshold and their inability to do more to land Darvish, I just can’t see this happening.
Arrieta is a pretty proud guy, so I’d be shocked if he went back to the organization that gave up on him. Even though leadership isn’t the same now (a lot of their old staff is actually in Philly, which could color those negotiations) as it was prior to one of the most lopsided trades of all time, I have to think Arrieta would rather stick it to Baltimore than lead a staff that has lots of holes.
Were it not for them trading for another Jake (Odorizzi), the Twins surely would been given better odds. Then again, they only offered Darvish $100 million and would have to get super creative in order to make that work for Arrieta.
Who’s even left at this point? I guess the possibility still exists for Arrieta to get crazy desperate and do a one-year deal or something with an early option, but that’s way more than an 8-1 shot. It’d be a huge surprise to me at this point if he doesn’t end up with one of the top four teams on this list, which means he’ll sign with the D-backs on Monday.