CHICAGO -- Months removed from winning the National League Cy Young award, Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta is focused on an encore. It doesn't mean he wasn't able to savor the accolades and fame that came with winning 22 games with a paltry 1.77 ERA last season.
"It's something no one can take away from me," Arrieta said Thursday. "It's very special. When guys like [Justin] Verlander win MVP, he signs 'MVP.' Those are the little things you can do now. It's pretty special."
Presumably, Arrieta will be signing "Cy Young" a lot this weekend as he and his teammates converge in Chicago for the Cubs' annual fan convention. On Thursday, some visited a Marine base and then an elementary school, where Arrieta gave an update on his contract situation. He's arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons before hitting free agency.
"It feels more positive than last year," Arrieta said of discussions with the team. "That's kind of a given."
In other words, winning all those games and producing the lowest second-half era in baseball history (0.75) is going to get him paid one way or another. A jump of $10 million or more from his $3.63 million salary last season isn't out of the question. A longer-term deal being struck this winter always seemed like a long shot, and though that's still possible, it's not likely.
"I don't think it's out of the question," Arrieta said. "I don't know if it's in the question either. ... Both sides are pretty smart. They've done this a time or two.
"I'm waiting for some phone calls. I try to stay out of it until the very end and then we go from there."
If the club and Arrieta can't come to terms by Friday afternoon, the sides will exchange salary figures, which an arbitrator will use to decide his 2016 salary. But that comes in February. Until then, Arrieta and the Cubs can still work out a deal -- short- or long-term. As for that encore, Arrieta wouldn't mind repeating his 2015 but says he thinks he can do even more now that he has thrown 200-plus innings in a season.
"Approaching that 250-inning mark was uncharted for me," he said. "Having that workload under my belt moving forward I'm very capable of handling it.
"The numbers are hard to control. I anticipate having a good season. If I go under a 1.70 [ERA] or over 22 wins remains to be seen. I think it's possible."
The Cubs might not need him to win 22 games in 2016 as they've become a deeper, more experienced team. Newcomers such as Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey provide more talent and winning experience.
"It's hard to look at those three guys right there and feel like we're not the favorite," Arrieta said.
Las Vegas and many in baseball agree. The Cubs are the team to beat in the National League, though that moniker hasn't always sat well with them in the past. Maybe this season will be different. It should feel different for Arrieta as now he's known as a Cy Young Award winner. It has given him a new status back home in Austin, Texas, and elsewhere.
"I go from California to Florida and there's fans everywhere in between," he said. "It's amazing to see."