Although it may seem like something that faded into the background what with the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and the Tyler Chatwood signing, the Cubs are still very much involved in the market for free agent righty Alex Cobb.
You remember Cobb, right? The 30-year-old former Rays starter, who openly said that he hopes a deal can be worked out with the Cubs, where he’d be reunited with his old manager Joe Maddon and his just-departed pitching coach Jim Hickey.
Bruce Levine reports that the Cubs may even want to try to lock Cobb down before the Winter Meetings begin tomorrow. The Yankees, Levine says, are believed to be the main competition for Cobb, though I expect that there are several other suitors out there. Now that Shohei Ohtani has chosen the Angels, you can figure that other teams will be all the more willing to check in on Cobb, whose market will be robust enough to get him at least a four-year deal.
In signing Chatwood to a three-year deal at a much higher rate than outsiders were predicting, it’s clear that the Cubs were looking not to find themselves in a terrible spot at the Winter Meetings, with two holes in the rotation left to fill and a scramble against several other teams to pull it off. I imagine, in an ideal world, they’re able to add Cobb on a four-year deal in the $50 million range, but if his market explodes into the five-year, $75 million type range … it’s a little dicier, given future needs and considerations. The Cubs could also wait out the trade market and/or change their mind on Mike Montgomery’s role, but obviously that’s not the preferred path.
So, then, we’ll see what happens today/this week. Whenever Cobb does sign, though, you’ll have to try not to be shocked by the price tag. Even though there were some scary peripherals last year for him, teams will be betting that, a year further removed from Tommy John, he can get back to being the quietly excellent starter he was before surgery – a guy who easily would have commanded a five-year deal.
One general thing I want to mention: the signings/trades the Cubs make to fill out the rotation this offseason are not about “replacing” Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, and the moves should not be compared against the outgoing pitchers. Rather, the Cubs are dealing with the reality of their rotation: it has two holes at the back end, and they have to find the best pitchers they can – when considering the cost and the near/long-term implications – to fill it out. The rotation that came before is completely immaterial. And heck, even if the Cubs re-signed Arrieta and Lackey, it’s not like they’re getting 2017 Arrieta and Lackey. There is no “replacing” players of the past. There is only addressing the holes that you see.