Manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that Arrieta will take the mound for the Cubs on April 4, but spring training performance and matchups are factors in deciding whether left-hander Jon Lester or right-hander John Lackey, signed away from the division rival Cardinals in the offseason, will follow Arrieta.
"It's another surprise," Maddon said. "Of course he's very excited about it. He's earned that right. If you're a starting pitcher, it really carries a lot of prestige along with it."
Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA last season, when he made just $3.63 million. He turns 30 on March 6, but the Cubs plan to keep their starting rotation out of exhibition games for one more week.
Arrieta's contract figures to be a hot topic this season, but he is tied to the Cubs until the end of the 2017 season.
He's represented by Scott Boras, who indicated late last season that Arrieta's low innings total -- likely to be under 1,000 for his career at the end of the season -- is a bigger factor than his age. He used the same argument to get Max Scherzer a $200 million deal from the Washington Nationals in free agency.
"I always tell owners: The best bet for you when you want to sign players is ones that are proven - but yet are proven with lesser innings," Boras said in 2015.