Moving on again, Cubs release Arrieta
With the Cubs moving onto a new era, it didn't make sense to keep sending Jake Arrieta to the mound in an increasingly futile attempt to find his old form.
A day after giving up 7 runs in the first inning against Milwaukee, the Cubs released the former Cy Young Award winner. His final numbers for 2021 were a 5-11 record and 6.88 ERA.
At the same time, Arrieta remains one of the most successful pitchers in franchise history. He sparked the 2015 playoff run by going 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA after the all-star break.
"Nothing at all this year diminishes what he's done," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said before Thursday's game. "This guy's a legend here. Some of my personal fondest memories of certainly '15 and '16 were both because of his dominance and I think also the confidence he gave our group.
"I do think when we talk about what allowed a group of young players to perform the way they did, I do think sort of being under the umbrella of his confidence certainly helped that a great deal and I think we all benefited from that tremendously."
Arrieta recorded 5 postseason victories and is one of two Cubs pitchers in the modern era, along with Ken Holtzman, to throw two no-hitters. Current manager David Ross caught the second one in Cincinnati on April 21, 2016.
"You hate that one on so many levels for me," Ross said Thursday. "A friend, and I've got so much to be thankful for that he's given me.
"It just stinks. I try to forget stuff like last night and looking up his numbers on the board, what he's done for this organization, how consistent he's been from the time I was on his team in '15 and '16. Those are the things I'm holding onto."
The Cubs and Arrieta parted ways once before, following the 2017 season when the Cubs chose to sign Yu Darvish as a free agent rather than re-sign Arrieta, who went to Philadelphia for the next three years.
The reunion with the Cubs got off to a decent start. Arrieta won three of his first four starts and had a 5-4 record after beating the Pirates on May 25. Since then, there have been five occasions when he gave up at least 6 runs in a game.
Arrieta, 35, first joined the Cubs in a trade from Baltimore on July 2, 2013. It was one of the more successful trades in Cubs history, with Arrieta coming over with reliever Pedro Strop for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
During Wednesday's postgame Zoom call, a frustrated Arrieta was asked a question by WSCR's Bruce Levine about being a mentor for his younger teammates. Arrieta replied, "It's not hard Bruce and I'd love you to take your mask off, I don't think anybody's around you (in the press box)."
It's not clear if that response had anything to do with Thursday's decision, but the move came as no surprise based on recent performance.
"It was really difficult," Hoyer said. "From a performance standpoint, we decided it was the right thing to do, but of course it made it more difficult, more complicated, just because of his history here and our strong desire to get him back to that place. But obviously in the end, we decided to move forward."
The Cubs made a few other moves, placing catcher Willson Contreras on the injured list with a right knee sprain. The injury does not appear to be anything serious and the move might be as much about giving Contreras a much-needed vacation.
With Arrieta released, and Contreras and Jason Heyward on the injured list, the Cubs took the field Thursday against the Brewers with just Kyle Hendricks on the active roster from the 2016 World Series team.