It's March 10, and not only does 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta not have a deal in place with any MLB team, but he doesn't appear to be even close to signing anywhere. Such a situation would have been lunacy a few years ago, both with Arrieta specifically and with any high-profile starting pitcher. This offseason, though, it's not even surprising anymore.
When it comes to Arrieta at this juncture, two things come to mind. First off, I can't help but wonder if the asking price from agent Scott Boras was far too high to open the bidding. We've seen a report that indicates Mike Moustakas and Boras turned down a . It's possible something similar has happened with Arrieta.
Secondly, I can't help but wonder if Arrieta has become underrated.
Obviously, such a term is subjective, and it's all in the eye of the beholder. Anecdotally speaking, I follow lots of different fan bases on social media and the general sentiment seems to be that every time a team is mentioned as having conversations about signing Arrieta, the collective response is something like, "NOOOOOOOOO!!!"
In many circles, you'll see something like "he was really only good for like a half-season" or some derivative thereof.
Such thought process couldn't be further from the truth.
It's funny how it happens, isn't it? Had Arrieta put together the exact same body of work and instead just spaced out his excellence instead of clustering it so heavily in 2015, he'd probably be much more highly praised. You disagree? Here are his numbers over the course of roughly 4 1/2 seasons with the Cubs:
Regular season: 128 starts, 68-31, 2.73 ERA, 147 ERA+, 1.03 WHIP, 793 K, 244 BB, 803 IP, two no-hitters, one Cy Young
Postseason: Nine starts, 5-3, 3.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 66 K, 21 BB, 52 2/3 IP, shutout in 2015 wild card game
That's a pretty stellar pitcher.
Now, some of that is due to him morphing into baseball's version of the Terminator in 2015. In his last 20 starts that season, he went 16-1 with a 0.86 ERA (Note: LOL). The next start was his wild-card shutout.
It wasn't just that stretch, though. People seem to either forget or ignore that.
Through two months in 2016, Arrieta was 9-0 with a 1.56 ERA. He battled command issues through the rest of that season, but he still finished 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA (135 ERA+). He was best in the majors in hit rate (6.3 hits allowed per nine innings, coming out to a .194 allowed batting average). That postseason, he went 2-0 in his two World Series starts, allowing three earned runs in 11 1/3 innings (2.38 ERA) with 15 strikeouts. In a must-win Game 6, he didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. In Game 2, with the Cubs trailing 1-0 in the series, he took a no-hitter into the sixth.
What about the forgotten 2014 season from Arrieta? Maybe no one outside the greater Chicago area (or those who had Arrieta in Fantasy baseball) noticed, but he was outstanding for a non-contending Cubs team that year. He started the season injured but made 25 starts. Arrieta would go 10-5 (for a 73-89 team) with a 2.53 ERA (150 ERA+), 0.99 WHIP and 167 strikeouts against 41 walks in 156 2/3 innings. Despite the abbreviated season, Arrieta's 5.3 WAR ranked fifth among NL pitchers, behind only established aces Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright.
Again, this is not a guy who had one fluky half-season. But this is all in the distant past, right?
Last year, before injuring his hamstring in his first September start, Arrieta was on quite the run. In 11 July and August starts, he was 7-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .183/.259/.309 line in the middle of a record-setting power boom.
Once he was recovered, he made two postseason starts, allowing just one earned run in 10 2/3 innings while striking out 13.
Arrieta isn't without flaws. In those two playoff starts, he walked five in each. His command is inconsistent at best and that figures to continue to be an issue for the 32-year-old, thanks in part to him throwing across his body.
Still, he's clearly proven to be an excellent run-prevention guy over the past 4 1/2 seasons. It wasn't just one fluky streak. He's has several extended stretches of greatness, and he's fresh off one of them.
We don't know exactly what kind of offers Arrieta has gotten or will get and we can't be 100 percent sure what Boras is asking.
I do know this: You should want your favorite team to sign Arrieta. He's a stud and has become an underrated one in my eyes.