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Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration with one-year, $15.637 million deal

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The Cubs reportedly agreed to a one-year, $15.3675 million deal with right-hander Jake Arrieta on Friday, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. Arrieta is entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility, and Carrie Muskat of MLB.com points out that only the Nationals’ Max Scherzer received a higher raise for a third-year-eligible starter, at $8.8 million in 2014.

Arrieta, 30, followed a career-best performance in 2015 with an 18-8 record, 3.10 ERA and 3.8 fWAR over 197 1/3 innings in 2016. His strikeout rate dipped from a 9.3 SO/9 to 8.7, while his walk rate hit a 3.5 BB/9 clip, nearly double that of his previous season totals. Although he was unable to successfully defend his 2015 Cy Young title, Arrieta delivered his second career no-hitter against the Reds in April and pitched to a 3.63 ERA over 22 1/3 innings during the Cubs’ championship run.

If any extension talks have progressed this month, as Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, hinted they would back in December, nothing has been publicized just yet. The Cubs have yet to confirm the settlement.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.