Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
The Chicago Cubs reunited with former ace Jake Arrieta on Friday, signing the free agent hurler to a one-year, $6 million guaranteed contract three years after he left the North Side for the Philadelphia Phillies.
It’s a nice narrative, and certainly helps Chicago’s rotation issues, but Arrieta is far from the Cy Young-winning righty Cubs fans remember from 2015. Over 64 starts with the Phillies, the 34-year-old compiled a 4.36 ERA with a 1.387 WHIP in 352.2 innings pitched. He started nine games last season only to finish with the second-worst ERA of his career (5.08).
The Cubs are taking a chance on him, regardless. Here’s how he’ll look back on their depth chart.
Chicago Cubs Starting Rotation
1. Kyle Henricks
2. Zach Davies
3. Alec Mills
4. Jake Arrieta
5. Adbert Alzolay
The last time Arrieta pitched a full season for Chicago, the Cubs got 30 starts out of him with a 3.53 ERA as they attempted to defend their 2016 World Series title. It’s not just that his numbers have dropped off since then, it’s the way in which they’ve done so.
Arrieta’s home runs per nine innings ballooned to 1.22 last year after he averaged 0.66 in four years with Chicago from 2014-17. Teams batted .333 when they put the ball in play against him last season and his strikeouts per nine innings dropped to 6.5—the lowest mark since his rookie season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010.
He’s also not coming back to a Cubs team ready to contend, either.
Chicago continues to field offers for third baseman Kris Bryant, traded Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres and have looked to cut salary where possible.
The reunion between Arrieta and the Cubs may feel like a homecoming, but it’s far from the clubhouse the hurler is used to.
Combined with a sharp decline in production, Chicago’s decision to give him a one-year deal shows even the Cubs want Arrieta to prove himself before they look at a longer future together.