By Bruce Levine--
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Right-hander Jake Arrieta and the Cubs avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $15.6-million deal Friday, setting his salary for 2017. The agreement on the contract will be his last with the team unless he and the Cubs agree on a long-term extension.
This coming November, Arrieta is set to become a free agent. He has won more games (40) in the last two seasons than any pitcher in baseball. In 2016, he went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA, and that was considered a letdown after his historic Cy Young season of 2015.
As of now, there are no discussions on a long-term contract between Arrieta and the Cubs. When asked about his chances of staying a Cub beyond 2017, Arrieta seemed resigned to the fact he may be moving on.
"The timeline is kind of coming to an end as far as as leading up to free agency," Arrieta said Friday at the Cubs Convention. "I am here for one more year, and I am going to enjoy every moment of it."
With the Cubs' huge financial commitments to left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Jason Heyward, a big-time $200-million contract to Arrieta at age 32 will likely come from another franchise. Arrieta deserves market value if he has another big season, and that price should be close to $30 million a season.
"This is a great place to play," Arrieta said. "Everybody knows that. If it happens, it happens. I don't know where we stand. I really don't. We do have some time to maybe work something out. If it doesn't, I will become a free agent."
The best play for both sides would be a deal getting done now. For Arrieta, he would have a contract that would exceed $90 million even on a four-year contract. On the Cubs' end, they would be assured an innings-eating machine.
Arrieta could help them win another world title or two, while the organization's starting pitching develops. The Cubs are light in starting pitching studs in the minors right now.
"The team is going to do what is best for them," Arrieta said with some sadness in his voice.
Also on Friday, the Cubs settled with reliever Hector Rondon for $5.8 million and reliever Justin Grimm at $1.82 million, avoiding arbitration. Fellow reliever Pedro Strop is asking $6 million in arbitration, while the Cubs' offer is $ 4.6 million. Strop remains the only arbitration-eligible Cub unsigned.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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