Following a heavy 2015 workload (248.2 innings, including the postseason) there were concerns as to how Jake Arrieta might respond atop the Cubs' rotation last season. After opening 2016 with a bang -- including his second career no-hitter in April -- Arrieta showed signs of regression during the second half, as his strikeout rate tumbled (from 26.1% to 20.9%) while his first-half control woes persisted (9.6% BB% in 2016 after he posted a 5.5% mark in 2015). At a glance, the walks seem like the biggest issue, but Arrieta's home-run rate nearly doubled from 2015, and it's fair to wonder if he's already peaked approaching his age-31 campaign. Even if 2016 is the new baseline, he is still an upper-tier starting pitcher. However, consecutive seasons with heavy workloads, and a reduced reliance on his cutter, may foretell more carefully monitored workloads, especially since he's only eclipsed 200 innings in the regular once as a big league starter.
Arrieta did not allow a hit over three innings in Sunday's spring training loss to the Athletics. He gave up an earned run, struck out five and walked three. Outside of the walks, Arrieta was very effective in this one. It was also an improvement over his first spring training start, in which he pitched two innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs. Arrieta looks to be dialing it in as the regular season approaches.
Arrieta pitched two innings in Monday's spring training win over the Angels, giving up five hits and two earned runs. He struck out one. It wasn't the cleanest outing, but there's no reason to worry about Arrieta. The 31-year-old has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game, and as he enters a contract season, Arrieta figures to have plenty of motivation on the mound in 2017.
Arrieta will make his regular season debut in the Cubs' second game of the season, Jesse Rogers of ESPN reports. The right-hander garnered the Opening Day start last season on the heels of his Cy Young Award-winning 2015 campaign, but this season, he'll cede those honors to veteran left-hander Jon Lester. Arrieta will have to wait until the second night of the season to face the Cardinals, and the pitcher opposing him is still up in the air. Nonetheless, this is by no means a knock to the 30-year-old's value, especially given the 3.10 ERA and 18 wins he produced last season.
Arrieta will make his spring training debut Monday against the Angels, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. Following his 2015 Cy Young campaign, Arrieta regressed some in 2016, but he still posted an impressive 3.10 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 197.1 innings. The 30-year-old is entering the last year of his contract, so he should be motivated to keep up the strong performance in hopes of getting a huge deal next offseason.
Arrieta said he expects to talk to the Cubs again about a contract extension before he becomes a free agent next fall, The Chicago Sun-Times reports. "There's an open dialogue there. I think we will have talks," Arrieta said. "But it's not my No. 1 priority." The 30-year-old has resurrected his career since coming to Chicago in 2013, and he figures to be in line for a big payday next offseason. Whether the Cubs will be willing to meet the price tag will be a big storyline to watch.