Sources: Arrieta, cubs had mega extension talks that ended pretty quickly over decent-sized gap over the length of the deal
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 8, 2016
According to Heyman, Arrieta and agent Scott Boras were seeking a seven-year deal, similar to the length that Cy Young winners Max Scherzer, David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez received in recent seasons.
The Cubs have understandably backed off from the idea. For starters, they have Arrieta under team control for two more seasons. Why give out a long-term deal -- probably in the neighborhood of $180 to $200 million -- when there are two seasons Arrieta could get injured before the free-agent buyout years even kick in?
Beyond that, you can't compare Arrieta to those other aces. Those guys were proven 200-inning workhorses; Arrieta just reached 200 innings for the first time in his career. I'm not saying Arrieta is a fluke: He now has 67 starts with the Cubs with a 2.26 ERA; while it'd be nearly impossible to match what he did in 2015, he's clearly established himself as one of the premier starters in the majors. Still, he has to prove he can deliver dominant 30-start seasons in consecutive years.
Also, due to the strange arc of his career with the years of struggles in Baltimore, Arrieta is already entering his age-30 season. He'll be 32 when he hits free agency. On the other hand, that also means he's pitched fewer innings than those other guys. Here are career major and minor league innings for that group through their age 29-seasons:
And, of course, a much lower percentage of those innings for Arrieta have been spent in the majors (795), which are presumably higher-stress innings. Hernandez's totals jump out at you, although keep in mind he was pitching professionally at age 17 when the others were still in high school.
Anyway, that workload -- or lack of it -- could bode well for how Arrieta ages, along with his conditioning regimen.
A secondary issue for the Cubs is being mindful of other players they'll want to sign long-term down the road: Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber & Co. Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are from the "build around position players" camp, so it seems more likely they would want to sign Bryant when he's turning 30 than Arrieta for his age 32-and-beyond seasons -- not that it's either/or. And even if talks have stalled for now, they'll certainly be re-addressed at some point. The Cubs, after all, aren't exactly hurting for money these days.