By Kevin Powell
Jake Arrieta knows what’s at stake over the final month of the regular season: a division title, another playoff berth, and a chance to repeat as World Series champions. It’s also his final opportunity to impress teams around baseball. The 2015 Cy Young winner will be a free agent this offseason, and a pay day is coming.
Arrieta is a calculated guy. Sure he wants another championship, but there’s no doubt he has money on his mind. This is what Arrieta told USA Today in an interview last month: “Everyone wants to have a career year, but if I stick to what I’m doing, I like my chances. I’ll be fine.’’
Arrieta knows the better he pitches in his final few starts, the more he’ll get paid. That’s not a swipe at Arrieta. I think he’s one of the most competitive guys in the Cubs’ clubhouse. He loves to battle on the mound. But let’s be real, a nine-figure deal is on the way.
None of his means Arrieta isn’t focused on the team goal to repeat as champs. If anyone is dialed in, it’s Arrieta. He’s been dominant since the All-Star break, going 6-2 with a 1.98 ERA.
This is likely Arietta’s final run with the Cubs. And it’s been a damn fine run. Since he was brought to Chicago in a steal of trade with Baltimore he’s gone 68-30, winning 75 percent of his games. All of this is ammunition for agent Scott Boras at the bargaining table. He knows what his client can fetch, especially in a weak free agent class.
And although he’s hit a speed bump with his hamstring injury, it doesn’t appear to be too serious and the club believes he can get back to full strength for the final stretch. Arrieta’s in good shape to get the richest contract in the upcoming free agency period.
Cubs’ fans can cross their fingers and hope Arrieta takes some sort of “hometown discount” with the team that resurrected his career. But this is professional sports. Arrieta owes nothing to the Cubs. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball for them over the past few years. And he deserves to cash in.
Whatever does happen, Arrieta has left fans with everlasting memories. A historic 2015 season. Multiple postseason appearances. A Cy Young Award. And of course, a World Series Championship.
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720