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The case for the Cubs re-signing Jake Arrieta

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Perhaps the Cubs can figure out a way to keep the big righthander.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Jake Arrieta came to the Cubs in July 2013 in a trade that has to be viewed as one of the best in franchise history.

He gave the Cubs four full seasons and one partial year that range from decent to otherworldly.

In his 128 starts for the Cubs he posted a 2.73 ERA, which ranks 18th in team history — except every pitcher better than that pitched in the Deadball Era or earlier. He posted 19.9 bWAR as a Cub. That ranks 23rd, but about half the pitchers with more were from that time a century or more ago, and almost all of them did it in more seasons than Jake’s four and a half in the blue pinstripes.

He’ll turn 32 during spring training next year. It’s generally conceded that players begin to decline about that age, if they haven’t begun that decline already.

It’s also conceded that Jake’s likely to cash in with a huge payday.

But the Cubs will need someone to replace the innings he piled up. Until he hurt his hamstring late in the 2017 season, he’d been pretty durable, and his 1,161 career innings aren’t an extraordinarily large number for someone his age. Comparison point: Felix Hernandez, who is almost exactly Jake’s age, has more than twice as many major-league innings, 2,502⅓. There are quite a few other pitchers near Jake’s age who have thrown at least 500 more big-league innings.

It’s been said that Jake is looking for a six- or seven-year contract. MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes forecasts that Jake will sign with the Brewers, a four-year deal for $100 million.

That’s just silly on a couple of counts. First, if Jake would settle for a contract of that length and dollars, he’d probably have been extended by the Cubs last offseason. Second, I can’t see him landing in Milwaukee. This is his one chance to cash in big, and with his family residing in Austin, Texas in the offseason, the Rangers would seem a likely destination, or perhaps somewhere on the West Coast, where he’s had quite a bit of pitching success.

The Cubs can certainly afford Arrieta right now. This spreadsheet estimates their 2018 payroll (including money going to arbitration-eligible players and renewed players) at about $137 million, which is $34 million lower than the 2017 payroll.

Their biggest question is: If they commit major dollars to Jake beginning in 2018, would that hamstring their ability to give longterm deals to players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks or Javier Baez as they approach free agency?

The Cubs’ biggest financial obligations in 2018 belong to Jason Heyward ($28,166,167) and Jon Lester ($27,500,000). You’d probably have to at least start Arrieta at around that level.

What if they offered Jake a four-year deal at $110 million, with two vesting option years tacked on to the end of that, say, for starts made at similar money? That could make it a six-year contract for somewhere in the range of $170 million.

The team should be able to afford that, especially if their proposed new TV network, which would begin about halfway through that deal, makes the kind of money the Cubs think it can.

Perhaps you think the Cubs can get along fine without Arrieta and find someone else who can provide similar production for less money. You might be right. I’d like to hear suggestions of pitchers who can do this.

But if they do retain Jake’s services, and add Alex Cobb, as I proposed here last week, they’d have one of the best rotations in the National League, with Lester, Hendricks and Jose Quintana.

Theo Epstein said a couple of weeks ago that he’d love to have Jake back:

So, would a deal like this be enough? Should the Cubs do it? Your turn.

Poll

The Jake Arrieta proposal above...

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Too much — move on
    (404 votes)
  • 60%
    Just right. Sign him up!
    (941 votes)
  • 14%
    Too little — it’ll take much more
    (222 votes)
1567 votes total Vote Now