The Chicago Cubs have long been taunted for their lack of quality pitchers in the system, but with the emergence of Jake Arrieta as a potential star for the future, things are finally starting to look up for the North Siders.
Then Sunday happened.
Before the game against the New York Mets, Rick Renteria had this to say to the media about Arrieta’s future for the rest of the season:
“We have to see how he’s feeling and he’s obviously been pretty good, so it’s still one of those things where we still monitor his pitch counts and innings, and it’s been something he’s been grinding it out pretty good. He’s given us quite a few good outings where he’s gone deep into ballgames. But we’ll continue to assess and evaluate and make that determination as we continue to move forward.”
While there isn’t much in the way of concrete statement in those sentences, some media members took it as a sign that the team may consider shutting Arrieta down before the end of the season. The bit about going deep into ballgames and monitoring pitch counts certainly could be considered red flags, but Renteria shut down speculation of a shutdown on Monday:
“We have no plans to shut him down. That’s something we’re not considering.”
The Cubs certainly would not be the first team to shut down a young pitcher to try to save his arm. The Washington Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg in 2012, and they were in the midst of a playoff race. They ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs to the St. Louis Cardinals, but the debate over whether or not they did the right thing still rages to this day.
In the case of the Cubs and Arrieta though, the question still should be asked: would the team be smart to save some wear and tear on his arm and shut him down before the end of the season? After all, he did deal with a shoulder injury earlier in the season, and with the Cubs well out of playoff contention (talk about an obvious statement), there’s really nothing to play for other than draft positioning at this point.
Even with those things being the case though, the fact is that the Cubs should simply let Arrieta continue to do what he’s doing. Yes, there is a possibility that putting extra wear and tear on his arm could be detrimental, or even result in an injury, but that possibility is there with every start that a pitcher makes in this league. Arms get stressed throughout the season, and knocking two or three starts off of his total at the end of the year won’t make a significant enough difference for the Cubs to really derive any benefit from doing so.