The Cubs have agreed to a $10.7MM deal with righty Jake Arrieta to avoid arbitration, Jay Cohen of the Associated Press (Twitter link). There was plenty of incentive for both sides to get something done, as Arrieta filed at $13MM and the team countered at $7.5MM, setting the stage for what would have been quite a high-stakes hearing.
Instead, Arrieta will land $450K above the midpoint. As MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz has explained in detail, Arrieta’s case provided a test for assessing arbitration raises. While the MLBTR arb model projected a $10.9MM salary after Arrieta’s monster 2015 season, Swartz revised that downward to $10.4MM as a limitation on the predicted record raise for a second-year-eligible player. Obviously, Arrieta landed right between those figures.
Arrieta, who is nearing 30, somehow managed to improve upon his stellar 2014 campaign with the Cubs, taking home a Cy Young award in the face of stiff competition. Chicago successfully reclaimed him after a 2013 deadline trade with the Orioles that also landed Pedro Strop in exchange for a few months of Scott Feldman.
Over his 229 innings in 2015, Arrieta worked to a 1.77 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9. He also improved upon his groundball induction numbers, posting an excellent 56.2% grounder rate on balls in place. With the righty showing career-best average fastball velocity, a true five-pitch arsenal, and non-existent platoon issues, there weren’t many pitchers this side of Los Angeles that could even come close to Arrieta’s work last season.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether there is any realistic hope of a longer-term pact. Arrieta is eligible for arbitration one final time next winter, and then stands to reach free agency. He won’t exactly be a youthful entrant onto the market, but as Zack Greinke just proved, it’s possible to take home over $200MM at an even later point in one’s career. Certainly, Chicago will have a tough decision as to how high it would be willing to go to keep Arrieta around.