The sides exchanged salary figures Friday after the Cubs to terms with six other arbitration-eligible players.
The Cubs have filed for a $7.5 million salary for Arrieta, whereas Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, put in for $13 million. It's a large gap, but Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, was quick to point out the numbers represent negotiating tactics more than anything else.
"The filing numbers aren't offers, they're filing numbers used to either create a hearing ... or more likely a settlement," Epstein said. "These numbers provide room for a settlement."
The sides can negotiate until a February hearing, and a middle ground of about $10 million might be the settlement Epstein was referring to.
"It's not going to be $7.5 [million]," Arrieta said. "We're far apart, but that's how these things go. They have their numbers, we have ours. We like our case. At the end of the day, something will get worked out."
The Cubs have never gone to a hearing under Epstein, although he has said the whole process yields some "awkward" moments.
The team will need to find some negatives to make its case, and that might be hard after Arrieta went 22-7 with a 1.77 ERA last season. Most of the time it comes down to comparable players.
"We weren't surprised or alarmed by what happened today," Epstein said. "We expect productive discussions."
Said Arrieta: "I don't take it personally. It's business at its highest level. A lot of money is involved. They want to save money, we want a little bit more of it. Naturally, that's how it goes."
If the sides do go to a hearing, the arbiter is bound to pick one salary or the other. Arrieta is in his second year of eligibility and has one more year of arbitration before becoming a free agent. He made $3.63 million last season.
Agreeing to terms with the Cubs on Friday were Travis Wood ($6.17 million), Chris Coghlan ($4.8 million), Pedro Strop ($4.4 million), Hector Rondon ($4.2 million), Adam Warren ($1.7 million) and Justin Grimm ($1.275 million).