Well, this is a fun change of pace from the typical opacity we see (or, rather, don’t see) in free agency.
Yesterday, we talked about new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey’s candor with respect to free agent starter Alex Cobb, and how he’d apparently be very on board with the Cubs bringing the righty over from Tampa Bay. It was not subtle: Hickey would love to see the Cubs sign Cobb.
Soon after, Cobb was on MLB Network Radio returning the favor.
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 10, 2017
As you could hear, Cobb was *extremely* effusive in his praise for Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, and made no secret of his appreciation for having worked with them for so many years. That he’d like to continue working with them would not be an unreasonable extrapolation.
But we don’t really have to extrapolate, because Cobb said it himself.
“I don’t hide the fact that I’ve got the most respect for Joe Maddon and what he did for me coming up as a player …. There’s nobody better in the game to control [the outside stresses and mental side of the game] and deal with people …. I can’t say enough good things about [Jim Hickey]. He’s become not only a pitching coach, but a real close friend of mine. Obviously, if we move down the line and we’re able to have some discussions with them, I’d be very honored to be able to talk with them and hopefully come to a deal.”
So, then, that’s about as honest and clear as it gets in free agency, right? Cobb also mentioned preferring to go to a competitive team, which, well, check. He even went so far as to suggest he would leave some money on the table if it meant signing with a clear winner.
If the contract is in the range of acceptable to Cobb, it sure sounds like he’d be happy to sign on with the Cubs.
To that end, he mentioned in the interview that he could be making a decision for the next five years of his life, perhaps suggesting that he’s looking for a five-year deal. And why wouldn’t he, as a 30-year-old starter who is a year and a half clear of Tommy John surgery and got great results last year?
… that said, I’d be surprised if the Cubs were willing to go to five years on Cobb, who was not quite the same guy post-TJS as he was before it, and whose peripherals featured more concerning bits than encouraging ones. (Much more on Cobb here.)
It sounds like there are some talks to be had. The Cubs have an obvious need for two starters at the back of their rotation, and as far as fourth starters go, Cobb would be a very good addition.
Cobb received a qualifying offer from the Rays, which he will reject by the end of the General Manager Meetings next week (the decision is due by November 16). That means, if the Cubs do sign him, they will give up their second highest pick in the 2018 draft, as well as $500,000 in IFA pool space (not ideal, since the Cubs will finally be out of the IFA penalty box, but not something that should deter you from signing a big leaguer you like).
It’s possible this could be among the faster-moving free agent negotiations, presuming the Cubs don’t have some hidden, internal red flag precluding them from seriously pursuing Cobb. The nice thing is that adding Cobb on a reasonable, realistic deal (four years and, say, $52 million?) would not preclude the Cubs from continuing to target other rotation additions via trade or free agency (and certainly wouldn’t impact their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani). Instead, it would simply put them in a good position to be more selective in the rest of free agency.