Despite declining the qualifying offer, it would still make the most sense to see Jake Arrieta carrying on with the Chicago Cubs. However, NL Central rivals the Milwaukee Brewers are also strong in the picture for the Cy Young winner.
Arrieta, understandably, turned down the $17.4 million qualifying offer, meaning the 31-year old is out to make a lot more, and will probably get it. He isn’t coming off the best of seasons by his standards (3.53 ERA, 1.218 WHIP), but his last four years have included a Cy Young award, an All-Star appearance and an MVP vote, while posting a 2.67 ERA and 1.028 WHIP, with some of the best HR/9 and H/9 ratios in the business, along with a 3.44 K/BB ratio. He’s also one of the best hitting pitchers in the NL, winning one Silver Slugger award.
The Cubs, who finished on top of the NL Central at 92-70 only to be swept for the second time in three years in the NLCS, are projected to have $132.9 million committed to next season including arbitration, not including free agents like Arrieta and others. Their pockets are deep, but maybe they sense something about the veteran righty, who’ll be 32 by the time next season begins, and has shown signs of inconsistency over the last 18 months.
The Brewers in the meantime have plenty of room to work with, along with a dire need for some top quality talent in their rotation, hoping to build on their 86 wins from last season. The Brewers are right now projected to have just $55 million committed to next season, and a similar number for 2019, before an almost clean slate in 2020. In short, despite not being a franchise that regularly chases top free agents, this might be the time to strike at a big available name, who they’ve seen from up close in recent years and know very well.
If Arrieta does join the Brewers and sign a deal worth over $50 million (which is almost a guarantee), it’ll cost Milwuakee their 3rd highest draft pick (74th overall) and another compensatory pick after Comp Round B.
Arrieta has been in the majors since 2010, playing for the Baltimore Oriole before joining the Cubs in 2013, where he has pretty much turned around completely a once disappointing career. He helped the Cubs win the World Series in 2016, and made just over $15 million in 2017. More names will likely enter the fray pretty soon besides these NL Central rivals.