<
>

Arrieta high on Maddon, free agents

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta didn’t get a chance to watch new manager Joe Maddon’s introductory news conference live on Monday, but he made sure to see a replay of it later. Having played in the American League East for the Baltimore Orioles while Maddon was managing the Tampa Bay Rays, Arrieta is well aware of the leader the Cubs are getting.

“When a guy like that becomes available, with his track record, with the things he’s done in Tampa, it’s hard to say no to that,” Arrieta told the "Waddle and Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 on Tuesday. “It’s hard not to approach him with an opportunity to manage this ball club.”

The Cubs not only approached Maddon, but they quickly hired him to replace first-year manager Rick Renteria. On Renteria’s watch, Arrieta had a breakout season in 2014, going 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA.

“He did a great job,” Arrieta said of Renteria. “We had a lot of positive things happen last season. Guys took steps forward. He always reiterated fighting and competing on a daily basis and really staying locked in. Those things were definitely accomplished.”

The Cubs replaced a manager they had every intention of bringing back, which caused some ripples throughout baseball. Arrieta understands why the Cubs made the move but still wants to express his thanks to his former boss.

“I definitely plan to talk to Rick and thank him for what he did for us and wish him well with whatever comes his way in the future,” Arrieta said.

Meanwhile, the future for the Cubs is looking brighter and brighter. Arrieta doesn’t know Maddon personally, but he knows his reputation.

“The only thing I ever really hear about Joe is how great of a guy he is to play for,” Arrieta said. “He keeps things light. He does things in spring training in the clubhouse with the players. He involves everybody.”

“Joe can bring some good things to the table that we can utilize and maybe move us a little quicker in the right direction.”

Maddon might be able to push the right buttons with players, but his presence won’t speed up the timetable when it comes to player personnel acquisitions, according to the Cubs' front office. They’ll test the free-agent market, but they aren’t going to devour it -- at least not this winter. Arrieta says there are plenty of players who are interested in coming to the Cubs.

“I have talked to some guys,” he said. “I know there are quite a few guys that like Chicago and want to give it a look. There’s a lot of interest out there, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit.”

When pressed to name names, Arrieta responded: “I don’t know if I can give that information out as of yet, but I will say there a lot of quality things that Chicago can offer, and I think a lot of guys know that.”

Arrieta played for the Orioles from 2010-13 and has friends around the league. Baltimore has nine free agents, including outfielders Nelson Cruz and Arrieta friend Nick Markakis. And there’s lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who’s going to get a lot of interest around the league and would fit the Cubs' needs, as well. So Arrieta could have been talking about a number of people, and along with Maddon and the front office, he believes a few additions could turn the Cubs into contenders next season.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question at all,” Arrieta said.

It’s a long way between now and next September, so it remains to be seen if the Cubs can contend in 2015. For now, Arrieta is understanding of the buzz his new manager brings and wants in on the excitement.

“I love the attitude Joe brings,” Arrieta stated. “His style is one that I think fits well in Chicago. I look forward to continuing to get to know him.

“I think Theo [Epstein] and Jed [Hoyer] and the Ricketts family did an unbelievable job bringing him in.”