By Bruce Levine–
(670 The Score) — Right-hander Jake Arrieta may be closer to returning to the Cubs than an any time since he became a free agent in early November.
The Cubs and Scott Boras, Arrieta’s agent, have had numerous conversations lately about a multi-year deal, sources confirmed. If a deal is agreed upon, it would reunite Arrieta with teammates and fans who love him after his superb three-and-a-half-year tenure in Chicago.
The Cubs would be willing to bring back Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, back on a four-year deal in the $110-million range, USA Today has reported.
“We have never ruled anything out with him,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of Arrieta as Cubs Convention opened up Friday evening. “He earned the right to be a free agent. He gets the ability to talk with 30 teams. I am sure he has a number of suitors and this is a special time for him. He will take his time and find the right contract and right place. We wish him well. It is not that we have closed the door to him at all. We will just see where this offseason takes us.”
The Cubs have been transparent about wanting to add more pitching.
“I haven’t heard anything from Scott that he wouldn’t want to return if the deal was right,” Epstein said. “I am sure the door is open on both sides.”
Like most free agents this offseason, Arrieta has had a difficult time receiving offers that are reflective of those in past seasons for players of his caliber. The biggest contract a pitcher has signed this offseason came when right-hander Tyler Chatwood agreed to a three-year, $38-million deal with the Cubs.
Arrieta and right-hander Yu Darvish are the two top pitchers available. Neither performed his best in 2017, but both are frontline starters who have yet to see the five-year or six-year deals available in past offseasons.
The asking price for Arrieta was $165 million in early November, according to one source. Two offseasons ago when the Cubs still had contract control of Arrieta, they were offering a four-year deal worth about $88 million.
Arrieta was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 2017.
With spring training just a month away, neither Boras nor the teams he’s talking to Arrieta about are panicking. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have negotiated with Boras many times in the past, and each side holds great mutual respect.
“Sometimes you just have to play along with the pace of play,” Epstein said of the slow free-agent market. “We are still working hard on a few different things. Our team is not done and we will keep working at it. We hope things work out well for the Cubs and well for the players as well. We are not really close right now. I am done predicting this offseason. Let’s wait and see what happens.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.