When the World Series champion Chicago Cubs visit President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, star pitcher Jake Arrieta won’t be with them.
Arrieta, a former TCU Horned Frogs pitching ace, said he needs to be home — his mother-in-law is recovering from brain surgery, son Cooper is having a tooth pulled that day. Arrieta, a Plano East High School grad, and his wife make their offseason home in Austin.
The decision, Arrieta insists, has nothing to do with politics.
A day after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, Arrieta tweeted it was “Time for Hollywood to pony up and head for the border #illhelpyoupack #beatit.”
Arrieta, who said he didn’t vote, on Friday suggested his message in November was misinterpreted.
“I was simply calling out people that said they were going to leave the country if Trump was elected,” he said before the start of the team’s annual winter convention. “It’s not a pro-Trump tweet. It’s not an anti-Hillary tweet. I don’t care who the president is. I want whoever’s president to do a good job.”
“People view us as athletes as being Republican and only caring about lower taxes, which isn’t the case,” he said. “If paying higher taxes is going to benefit the majority of society, I’m fine with that. … I’ll be open and honest. I just want somebody to lead our country and do a good job. Whether it’s Obama, whether it’s Trump or Hillary, I just want to see somebody do a good job for the benefit of everybody.”
So while his teammates attend the ceremony with Obama — a noted White Sox rooter — Arrieta will be absent. The visit will come during Obama’s final week in office; the Series champs usually stop by the White House the following season.
“I won’t be on that trip. I would like to, but I’ve got some other things I’ve got to handle,” he said.
Arrieta tried to make his position clear.
“I was simply calling out people who have a tremendous platform of millions of followers that said they were going to leave the country if Trump was elected. I was basically calling their bluff. If you don’t want to live here … then beat it,” CSN Chicago quoted him as saying Friday.
“I’m pretty pro-United States, as I think everybody in this country should be, if you want to stay here. And if not, then I’m sure there’s somewhere else they can go.”
As the Cubs’ delirious fans gathered at a downtown Chicago hotel for another celebration of the team’s first World Series title since 1908, Arrieta’s representatives and the club put the finishing touches on a $15,637,500, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
But there were no signs that the sides were any closer on a multiyear deal that would keep Arrieta in Chicago beyond this season.
“There’s certainly a chance that he could be here beyond next year, but we don’t have any ongoing talks or anything specific scheduled,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “But I’m sure it will come up at some point.”
Arrieta, Washington star Bryce Harper and Baltimore standouts Manny Machado and Zach Britton got big-money deals Friday as more than 100 major leaguers reached agreements for 2017 and left just 28 players on track for salary arbitration.
Harper, who slumped after winning the 2015 NL MVP award, agreed at $13,625,000, leaving himself with one more year of arbitration eligibility before he can go on the open market.
Machado, the Orioles’ slugging third baseman and Gold Glove winner, got $11.5 million, while Britton, a Weatherford High School grad who led the AL in saves, accepted $11.4 million. Like Harper, both can become free agents after two more seasons.
Colorado Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado agreed to a $29.5 million, two-year contract, one of just two multiyear deals among the 118 players who settled Friday. Third baseman Yangervis Solarte agreed to a two-year deal with San Diego, which was closing in on a long-term agreement with first baseman Wil Myers.
Only a handful of players are likely to go before three-person arbitration panels next month. Players won three of four hearings last year, their first winning record since 2011. Management has a 302-224 advantage since arbitration started in 1974.
Other notable deals Friday were reached by 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel of Houston ($9.15 million), Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer ($12.25 million), Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier ($12 million), New York Mets starters Matt Harvey ($5,125,000) and Jacob deGrom ($4.05 million).
Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who led the major leagues in saves last year, agreed at $7,425,000 — but he may not get all of it. He faces a possible suspension at the start of the season under the sport’s domestic violence policy.
Among the players who didn’t settle, the largest amount asked for in arbitration was $8 million by Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy, who was offered $7.25 million.
The largest gaps involved Boston left-hander Drew Pomeranz ($5.7 million vs. $3.6 million) and Yankees setup man Dellin Betances ($5 million vs. $3 million). Houston has the most remaining players eligible for hearings with four: pitchers Mike Fiers, Will Harris and Collin McHugh plus first baseman Marwin Gonzalez. Baltimore has three: pitchers Brad Brach and Kevin Gausman, and catcher Caleb Joseph.