CHICAGO — There was no surprise return for Jake Arrieta. No dramatic entrance for Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb or Greg Holland, either.
Not even close.
The Chicago Cubs settled five of their six potential arbitration cases before the start of their annual fan convention on Friday, including a record $10.85 million, one-year deal for third baseman Kris Bryant.
But they remain at an impasse when it comes to another free-agent addition or a big acquisition via trade — a common refrain during one of the slowest winters for baseball in a long time.
"We're not done. We have confidence in this group if this is the 25 we end up taking to spring training," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "But realistically, we'd certainly like to add another pitcher.
"I mean, look, we'd make a move tonight if we could, but it's not there for us, so we'll be patient and keep working on it."
Chicago made a couple of big moves early in the offseason, signing free-agent pitchers Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Morrow. Chatwood is ticketed for the rotation after finalizing a $38 million, three-year contract on Dec. 7, and Morrow could replace Wade Davis at closer after he agreed to a $21 million, two-year deal.
Side-arming reliever Steve Cishek also agreed to a $13 million, two-year contract with the reigning NL Central champions last month.
Since then, it has been mostly quiet.
Epstein and the Cubs were one of the finalists for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani before he signed with the Angels. They met with Darvish last month, and remain interested in re-signing Arrieta after the right-hander played a key role in their 2016 World Series title and three straight appearances in the NL Championship Series overall.
The Cubs also have been linked to Cobb, who played for manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey in Tampa Bay, and Holland makes sense after Davis departed for a big free-agent deal with Colorado.
Some of baseball's other top teams also are circling the same free agents as Chicago, but Epstein sounds content to let the market play itself out at this point.
Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, appeared to be headed out of town after blossoming into one of baseball's best starting pitchers in Chicago, going 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in the previous five years with the Cubs. But he remains on the market and Epstein is leaving the door open for a reunion.
"We've never ruled anything out with him," he said.
Bryant's one-year contract broke Ryan Howard's record for a player eligible for arbitration for the first time. Howard was awarded $10 million by a three-person panel in 2008.
"Arbitration is a fairly rote exercise where you put up your numbers, you accumulate your rewards, then you compare them to guys who have done similar things in the past," Epstein said. "In his case, you know you don't usually go a decade back for a comp, but Ryan Howard having won the MVP and obviously there's been some inflation since then. It took care of itself. He earned it. He's going to set a lot of records in his day and I get more excited about the ones on the field, but this is a well-deserved and appropriate salary."
Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs and 73 RBIs last year, when he made $1.05 million. The previous season, he earned National League MVP honors when he hit .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBIs.
The Cubs also reached one-year deals with right-hander Kyle Hendricks ($4,175,000), shortstop Addison Russell ($3.2 million) reliever Justin Wilson ($4.25 million) and infielder Tommy La Stella ($950,000).
Hendricks had 16 wins and a major league-low 2.13 ERA in 2016, and went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA last season. No matter what happens before opening day, he said the expectation of another long playoff run remains in place.