It’s no secret what Jake Arrieta and his agent Scott Boras are looking for when he hits free agency. Seven years. The only 30 year old pitchers who receive seven year deals are named David Price and Zack Greinke. Arrieta has definitely put himself in the same class as those aces and may have even surpassed them in terms of sheer dominance. He’s on the verge of putting together the best 25 game stretch of starts in baseball history. But can this Cubs front office that prides itself on getting the most out of every dollar they spend justify paying a pitcher who is already in his 30s top dollar for seven more years?
Arrieta has been compared to Bob Gibson more times than I can count, and if that comparison holds up then the Cubs would be stupid not to sign him to a seven year contract. Gibson pitched into his age 39 season, but before that at age 37 he had 2.77 ERA with a 1.108 WHIP. That’s with many more innings on his arm than Arrieta will likely approach because the game has changed from when Gibson eclipsed 300 innings in one season twice. If we look at both players’ peaks, Gibson’s actually came later than Arrieta’s in his age 32 season where he gave up 38 earned runs in over 300 innings, which is laughable. That’s also assuming last year will be Arrieta’s best, though you could argue that his start to this season will challenge that.
But what if he’s not Bob Gibson? In reality, making comparisons between two players from completely different eras is a waste of time. Modern day pitchers are used less and are more prone to injury. With Arrieta’s mechanics you could say he’s a prime candidate to get hurt even though he keeps himself in top shape. Even if he doesn’t get hurt, is he going to be a dominant ace for another seven years?
Arrieta certainly isn’t lacking confidence that he’s going to get the deal he wants. In Bob Nightengale’s piece he expressed that he’s going to get as much money as possible out of whoever is willing to pay the most, and who could blame him? The question is, do the Cubs go against their normal practice of not signing veteran pitchers to long term deals? David Price could have been a Cub, but the front office did not want to be locked into that long of a deal for an aging arm. Remember, you have to pay for what you think you’re going to get, not what you’ve gotten. Arrieta might be a different case than most, but how much are the Cubs willing to give in order to get?