What’s Jake Arrieta worth? Predicting the Cy Young winner’s next contract

Jake Arrieta 2016 no-hitter
Jake Arrieta won all five of his starts in April, including a no-hitter at Cincinnati on April 21. Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

At least Jake Arrieta is honest.

Asked if he would give the Chicago Cubs a hometown discount in his next contract, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner bluntly said, “No.”

The topic resurfaced recently, after the Washington Nationals gave 27-year-old Stephen Strasburg a seven-year, $175 million contract extension. Arrieta, however, is in a different place than the Nats’ right-hander, since he turned 30 on March 6 and, more importantly, is under the Cubs’ control through 2017.

Arrieta is making $10.7 million in 2016, and next season will mark his second as arbitration-eligible. If the Cubs don’t re-sign him by the end of 2017, he can test the market as one of baseball’s best pitchers – but one who will soon turn 32.

The time for Arrieta to sign a new deal would seem to be now, since he’s in the midst of one of the best stretches by a pitcher in major-league history, and since his value, at 30, will be never be higher.

Spotrac recently broke down Arrieta’s market value, and the website compared him to four pitchers –Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Max Scherzer – who signed lucrative deals at age 29 or 30.

Verlander was 30 in 2013, when he started a seven-year, $180 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. At the time, he was coming off a four-year run in which he had finished in the top three in the Cy Young race three times, plus led the American League in strikeouts and innings pitched in all but one of the four seasons.

In the two seasons prior to his mega-deal, Verlander was a combined 41-13 with a 2.52 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and norms of 9.0 strikeouts and 6.7 hits allowed per nine innings. He averaged 7.3 innings per start, won a Cy Young and was the runner-up in the other campaign.

Greinke really only had one big season – his 2009 Cy Young campaign with the Kansas City Royals – when he inked a six-year, $147 contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to 2013.

(He opted out of the deal after 2015, then signed a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That worked out OK.)

In the two seasons prior to 2013, Greinke was 31-11 with a 3.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and norms of 9.3 Ks and 8.5 hits allowed per nine. He averaged 6.1 innings per start.

Hamels had three top-eight Cy Young finishes in his first seven seasons, then received a six-year, $144 million extension from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013. In 2011 and ’12, he was a combined 31-15 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He averaged 8.6 Ks and 7.5 hits allowed per nine, and 6.7 innings per start, in that span.

Scherzer was coming off his two biggest seasons, including a 2013 AL Cy Young, when he signed a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals before the 2015 season. In the two seasons before signing the monstrous deal, Scherzer was a ridiculous 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He averaged 10.2 Ks and 7.2 hits allowed per nine, and 6.7 innings per start.

Arrieta, meanwhile, was a combined 31-11 with a 2.08 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in 2014 and ’15. He averaged 9.4 Ks and just 6.2 hits allowed per nine innings, and had a norm of 6.6 innings per start.

Since August 2015, however, he’s been out-of-his-mind good.

Entering a May 14 start, Arrieta was 16-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in his last 18 starts. He allowed only 4.5 hits per nine in that span, with a norm of 8.7 Ks per nine.

Spotrac estimated Arrieta’s market value at six years and $168,607,939. That would give the Cubs’ ace an average of $28.1 million a year, which would rank fifth in MLB.

Judging his value is complicated by Arrieta being eligible for arbitration again in 2017. David Price set the arbitration record with a $19.75 million salary in 2015, and it would seem that Arrieta would be in line for a similar amount.

The Cubs conceivably could reward Arrieta for his crazy production by giving him, say, $21 million for 2017, then upping his salary to $30 million per year in the seasons that follow. But would Theo Epstein be willing to tack on another five years, signing Arrieta through 2022, when he would be 36?

The Cubs would obviously prefer a shorter contract, but we doubt Arrieta – who is represented by Scott Boras, who convinced the Nationals to give Strasburg and Scherzer seven-year deals – would sign for anything fewer than six years.

Our best guess: Six years and $170 million – giving Arrieta about $20 million in 2017, then essentially a five-year, $150 million extension.

The Cubs can afford it, and Arrieta would have a deal in line with other stud pitchers who signed big deals.

It would be a win-win, like just about everything else the Cubs are doing nowadays.