Earlier this week, Bruce Levine dispelled a rumor about free agent righty Alex Cobb’s contract demands. The weird thing was, I hadn’t actually seen the rumor (and I usually do … ):
The Alex Cobb camp deny the rumored 4 year $80 million that was being passed around on twitter .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 12, 2017
We mentioned it and moved on, since there hadn’t otherwise been any kind of indication that Cobb was seeking a deal at that level.
… until now.
Gordon Wittenmyer reports that “sources say Cobb’s asking price, thought to be about $20 million per year, has lowered the temperature on the Cubs’ desire for a pitcher with an injury history and a career high of 179 1/3 innings.”
First, let me concur with Wittenmyer/the Cubs there: if Cobb’s asking price is $20 million per year – even if only on a three-year deal – the Cubs’ temperature should very much be cooled. That’s an enormous luxury tax cap hit for the next several years on a guy whose results were great last year, but whose peripherals were terrible, and who missed the previous season having just had Tommy John surgery. Part of signing Cobb to a four or five-year deal right now is taking on the risk of that surgery and those peripherals. That should – and ultimately will – be reflected in the price tag.
But is it really true?
Well, Cobb seeking a $20 million AAV would certainly be an Occam’s razor type explanation for why the (very credible) rumors about the Cubs seeking out starting pitching trades has ticked up this week. At that price point, I’m sure the Cubs would definitely think twice about making sure they couldn’t find someone else in a trade.
But there are only 13 pitchers in all of baseball making a $20 million AAV. Now, we know that the market is uneven because of team control, extensions, and arbitration, so the top 13 salaries don’t go to the top 13 pitchers, but … come on. The guys above $20 million who received those deals in free agency are Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Zack Greinke.
The market always moves north, but a $20 million per year ask by Cobb would be an extreme stretch.
I would have thought the most aggressive he could go with an ask would be something like Jeff Samardzija’s deal (five years, $90 million) or Mike Leake’s deal (five years, $80 million), but even those are imperfect comps, since Samardzija was healthier and more successful, and Leake was healthier and two years younger than Cobb is now. And neither of those guys were tied to draft pick compensation like Cobb is.
Other recent AAVs of note in free agency: Wei-Yin Chen, Scott Kazmir, and Rich Hill got $16M, Ian Kennedy got $14M, Ervin Santana got $13.75M, and Tyler Chatwood just got $12.667M from the Cubs.
So, then, do I think Cobb is seeking $20 million per year? I suppose there’s a chance that number got floated as the “I’ll sign today no questions asked” figure. Is that the same thing as “seeking” $20 million per year? At the end of the day, we’re kinda just playing with words.
My guess is that Cobb is interested in signing with the Cubs, and the Cubs are interested in signing Cobb. And since both sides know it, maybe they’re both comfortable staying out there a bit and seeing what else they can get. Maybe Cobb knows the Cubs are sticking at – and this is completely hypothetical – four years and $60 million, and he wants to see if there’s another team out there that will blow him away with a much higher offer. And maybe the Cubs know that unless a team goes nuts, they can get Cobb at their price … and in the meantime, they’re cruising the trade market to see if a guy like Danny Salazar, Danny Duffy, or even Chris Archer can be had.
Talking this all through – and I have no inside sources on this one – it just feels like this sums up not only where Cobb is from a contractual perspective, but also why things haven’t been done yet despite the mutual interest.
There’s still plenty of time.
Ham-fisted ad segue – there’s also plenty of time for holiday shopping:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 14, 2017