The Cubs lose for the first time in 24 Jake Arrieta starts, and the contract negotiations lag.
In all likelihood, one has nothing to do with the other. Yet, the Cubs and Arrieta, he of some of the most dominant starts in recent memory and the defending NL Cy Young champion, remain separated in their talks of an extension for the 30-year-old right-hander. What it comes down to, according to Jon Heyman, is as simple as Arrieta wanting seven years and the Cubs pushing closer to four.
How far apart are the Cubs and Jake Arrieta? Well, three years apparently, and that's a lot. He has sought seven, and they are offering four, at last check. The sides are also far enough apart that "Arrieta will not sign,'' predicted one person familiar with the talks.
There has been no real progress from the last time we checked in on Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras (of course), staring intensely at the Cubs' front office. It was back in April that the two sides had been reported distant from each other, and the Cubs' lack of hustle here is understandable. Arrieta won't even be a free agent until 2018, allowing the Cubs to tack the time leading up to his free agency onto any deal that would be arranged this early. For the same reason, Arrieta has little motivation to budge as well (despite saying he'd like to remain in Chicago), barring any unforeseen developments.
Earlier this month, Buster Olney suggested that unless Arrieta becomes willing to take a deal similar to the one Stephen Strasburg got with the Nationals, the Cubs will let him drift into the free agent market in 2018 with the likes of Yu Darvish.
Then, there's the whole issue of Arrieta hitting his thirties as a starting pitcher, when his body might start to show signs of wear and tear just as the Cubs could potentially dump a pile of money on his lawn. However, one asterisk in regards to Arrieta's history is that he has not been this ace-caliber hurler for very long, despite his age.
It has been well-documented that it wasn't until he left Baltimore at the age of 27 that Arrieta began to be a consistently deep, reliable pitcher, throwing over 500 innings with Chicago since being acquired, after only a combined 358 innings with the Orioles from 2010-13. Last year, in Arrieta's NL Cy Young-winning campaign, he shattered his personal record of IP in a season with 229, with his closest season being 156.2 the year before.
This stalemate may go on for some time. Meanwhile, both sides will likely be happy if Arrieta continues to lead the league in wins (9), ERA+ (256), and H/9 (5).