At the tail end of the Winter Meetings, a report circulated that free agent righty Alex Cobb was believed to be seeking $20 million annually. I took a look at some recent free agent contracts for starting pitchers in that range and concluded either that Cobb was not actually seeking a deal at that AAV level, or that his camp was probably marketing him a bit too aggressively. Most likely, it was perhaps a number that was floated as a “get the deal done today” type thing, not an actual expectation when all was said and done.
In any case, whatever the truth, we know the Cubs’ and Cobb’s mutual interest, so the fact that no deal is yet done does suggest that the sides haven’t been able to come together on an acceptable price tag, hence the Cubs’ trade considerations for other pitchers, and now, rumored interest in Yu Darvish.
To that end, something that stuck out to me in Bruce Levine’s report about the Yu Darvish interest was this line: “The price and length of the contract that Cobb was seeking an the Winter Meetings was prohibitive in the Cubs’ mind, a source said recently.”
You may recall that it was Levine who initially dispelled any rumors that Cobb was seeking, specifically, a four-year, $80 million contract. So, even if that particular contract ask was not correct, Levine’s source now tells him that – whatever the number – the Cubs had a problem with the length and size of the contract ask.
Cobb offers a unique combination of age (30) and upside (he was excellent before Tommy John surgery) in free agency, and is a desirable target, without question. But, given that last year was his first full season back from Tommy John and the peripherals (specifically the strikeout rate and hard contact rate) leave you feeling awfully nervous about a substantial commitment. For those combined reasons, I’ve always felt like I could be on board with a four-year, $60 million Cobb signing, but any more than that would leave me feeling nervous about the impact on payroll from 2019 to 2021, when the Cubs may have to blow through the luxury tax cap. Given past comps, though, I’m not convinced four years and $60 million might not also be a little bit high.