Bruce Levine reported earlier Tuesday that the Cubs were showing “renewed interest” in Jake Arrieta, but didn’t offer much in the way of specifics. It’s a safe assumption that the interest is less about meeting Arrieta’s asking price and more about staying active at the top of the market and making at least a cursory effort to engage their former ace.
Enter USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who wrote that the Cubs “would be willing to bring back Arrieta on a four-year deal for about $110 million.” Yeah, so that’s about two years and $50 million less than what the bearded righty was said to be looking for. The Cubs wanting nothing to do with a six-year deal for Arrieta is not a new concept by any stretch, though having these reports surfacing in relatively quick succession bears at least a little attention.
With all obvious caveats regarding the source’s less than sterling record when it comes to figures, four years and $110 million would be $27.5 million AAV. That’s about $900,000 per year more than Arrieta’s reported ask and about $2.5 million more than I’d have predicted the Cubs would be willing to go. The years are the real key, though, as the risk from the high average is mitigated by the relatively short term. That’s also why Arrieta is unlikely to take it, given an overall guarantee that’s nearly one-third less than he wants.
I don’t doubt for a second that the Cubs do have a greater interest in a reunion with Arrieta than they did just a couple weeks ago, but that’s mainly because the relationship had been sort of frosty of late. What they are doing here is setting a baseline for overall negotiations and seeing where the market goes. Their talks with Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb have featured a similar gap in both years and dollars, though obviously to varying degrees.
If I had to speculate, I’d say the Cubs would be willing to go a little bigger on a deal for Darvish in both years and money. Maybe a starting point of five years at $135-ish million with some incentives for more. Cobb, on the other hand, is probably looking at no more than four years at an AAV of no more than $20 million, and even that would be a pretty big stretch.
The Cubs have been talking to pretty much everyone, but they know there’s value in silence as well. Players and agents are aware of the deal, so now it’s now a matter of putting some numbers out there just hanging out in the back and putting out the vibe. You can actually feel it if you really focus and sit very, very still for a while.
Okay, so it’s probably a little more involved than that, but the Cubs clearly aren’t in any hurry to throw a pile of money at anyone.