Arrieta Says Cubs Indeed Gave Him ‘Take it or Leave it’ Offer Prior to Signing Darvish

After receiving conflicting reports in the wake of the Cubs signing Yu Darvish, we may finally have the definitive answer as to whether the Cubs actually made an offer to Jake Arrieta. FanRag’s Jon Heyman was first with the story that Arrieta had turned the Cubs down when Theo Epstein called him with an 11th hour deal. But Epstein later clarified that he had actually spoken with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, and that the call was more of a courtesy than anything else.

Now, nearly three months later, Arrieta himself seemed to verify Heyman’s initial account of the conversation when he talked with Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He made an offer, but in my heart, I believe that he knew I would say no or that I would want to negotiate, which would make it easier for him to go sign Darvish,” Arrieta told Wittenmyer.

“[Epstein] called literally the night before Darvish signed and said, ‘Here’s the offer, take it or leave it. If you don’t want it, we’re going to try to sign Darvish as soon as possible.’”

The offer was for $120 million over six years, just $1 million less AAV than Darvish got. If you know anything about Arrieta, though, the matter was about much more than a few million dollars. As the unquestioned staff ace during his last few years in Chicago, he was a driving force of the Cubs’ ascent. He’s also a really proud dude who feels — rightfully so — that he deserved a little more respect than he was shown.

“[T]hey weren’t willing to negotiate at all, and that wasn’t acceptable for me,” Arrieta said.

“But then when Theo called, and then he signed Darvish the next day, it brought up all that stuff again, like we were back to square one,” Arrieta admitted. “It was tough.”

Now, to be clear, Arrieta is not saying that he spoke directly with Epstein even though he does say “I” and “me” when talking about the unwillingness to accept an offer without negotiation. Boras makes sure all communication flows through him, but since he’s acting on his client’s behalf, Arrieta’s desires are still paramount.

The former Cub also admitted that, while he didn’t necessarily want to leave Chicago, he and his wife indeed had had a collective foot out the door for quite some time. And that’s really where the lines get a little blurred between the various realities of the situation we’ve been presented with to this point.

Though he claims there are no sour grapes, I find it very hard to believe Arrieta isn’t at least a little salty over the way things played out during a notoriously slow free agency. He says he’s happy with the deal he got after betting on himself again, and he certainly should be after seeing how Mike Moustakas and others got royally hosed.

Still, the money and the situation are less ideal that what had been projected to get and the utter lack of pursuit from the Cubs has to be sticking in his craw at least a little bit. Then you consider that his knowledge of the call from Epstein is coming through a Boras filter and it’s easy to see how things could perhaps have gotten a wee bit twisted.

So did the Cubs really make a take-it-or-leave it offer on the eve of signing Darvish or was it more of a courtesy to let Boras know what they were planning and that Arrieta was a fallback option? I mean, no way is Arrieta going to go around telling people he was a contingency plan, but the truth might actually be somewhere between the two stories.

All we really know for sure — inasmuch as that’s ever possible — is that if the Cubs did actually put forth a last-minute offer, it was the only one they made to Arrieta all winter. When USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported a figure of “about $110 million” over four years, it was simply a matter of what the Cubs were willing to go to at the time. We’ve known that for quite some time, but Wittenmyer further clarifies.

Not that it matters now, what with the ink on the contracts long since dried and all that, it’s just interesting to hear more about the whole weird business from Arrieta himself. When you strip away all the ego and the interpretation of intent, though, the main thing that comes through is how proud Arrieta is of what he and the Cubs accomplished in their time together.

“I respect the hell out of the guys in Chicago for what they’ve built,” Arrieta said. “No hard feelings. I’ll hug Theo and Jed [Hoyer] and all the boys when we go to Chicago and they come here.”

The first opportunity for Arrieta to pitch against his old team comes when the Phillies travel to Wrigley for a three-game set starting June 5. The two won’t square off again until August 31, at which point the Cubs should be safely in first and the Phillies safely…ahead of the Marlins.

It’ll be kind of a trip to see that bearded visage glaring down at a batter from the mound at Wrigley, except under a Phillies cap. But as soon as the cognitive dissonance fades, I hope the Cubs absolutely beat the hell out of him.

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