Jake Arrieta Chicago Cubs
Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs acknowledges the crowd after being relieved in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Oct. 18, 2017 in Chicago. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was just three months ago that Jake Arrieta was a new free agent and Scott Boras was reportedly asking MLB owners for a $200 million contract on his client’s behalf. Now that the 2018 season is only three weeks away from starting, the former Chicago Cubs’ pitcher is running out of time to be ready for Opening Day.

With the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies and possibly the Milwaukee Brewers lurking as potential suitors, Arrieta is easily the best free agent on the market. He remains at home in Austin, Texas with spring training in full swing.

Depending on what team he joins, Arrieta could be a front-end starter. He’d fall behind both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the Nationals, though he might be the ace on either the Phillies’ or Brewers’ staff.

As Arrieta remains unsigned, the chances of him not being able to pitch for any of those teams in the first week of the season are increasing.

Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez had to wait until February before they found homes. The former free agents all ended up signing nine-figure deals with teams that were reported to be interested in them at the start of the offseason.

Maybe Arrieta’s prolonged free agency will conclude with him joining a team that’s been pursuing him for months and getting the same kind of money that he could’ve received in December. It’s also possible that Arrieta will have to sign a contract that’s worth less than half of what he was initially seeking.

Darvish agreed to his contract with Chicago on Feb. 10. He’ll be the same age as Arrieta this season—Arrieta turned 32 years old Tuesday—and has put up similar numbers in the past few years.

Teams, however, seem to view Darvish more favorably going forward. Since winning the National League Cy Young award in 2015, Arrieta’s ERA and WHIP have increased each season. Seventeen starters posted a better ERA than Arrieta in 2017, and 92 pitchers had a higher WAR.

The answer could lie in Arrieta signing a lucrative one-year contract and trying to find a long-term deal next year. That would certainly increase the number of teams willing to sign him, though it’s hard to believe the veteran would accept such a short contract.

Philadelphia has reportedly engaged in discussions with Arrieta, but they’ve been unwilling to come to an agreement because the Phillies want the starter on a three-year deal.