Although the hottest rumor of the offseason for the Cubs has quite clearly been their connection to free agent righty Alex Cobb, you knew it wouldn’t be as simple as the Cubs walking up with an offer to sign, and Cobb saying, “OK, cool, sounds good”
There’s always a negotiation, even the Cubs have been less than transparent that they want the 30-year-old righty, and the free agent, himself, has been less than transparent that he’s very open to it.
Moreover, if a free agent is attractive enough for the Cubs to target him early, then he’s probably going to be attractive enough for other teams to be involved, too.
So it is with Cobb, whose peripherals left a lot to be desired in 2017, but who get excellent results and was very good before the Tommy John surgery he recovered from in 2015 and 2016. With a relatively thin free agent market, and with Cobb’s youth and productivity, lots of pitching-needy teams will check in on him, and won’t simply cede him to the Cubs because of the past relationships there.
But which teams will be fighting the Cubs for Cobbs’ services? We haven’t heard a ton about specific teams, with a recent mention of the Orioles among the few that have emerged. Still, if you ask Peter Gammons, he has heard there’s one team right up there with the Cubs: “Heading for Thanksgiving, the industry consensus is that the Alex Cobb showdown will come down to Cubs v. Yankees.”
Like the Cubs, the Yankees certainly need the pitching and have the funds to sign Cobb. They also have a clear competitive window ahead of the, and the major market allure (to the extent Cobb is looking for that). They have an unsettled managerial and coaching situation, so that probably works against the Yankees, especially when you compare them to the Cubs, who have a manager and pitching coach whom Cobb reveres. Does Cobb like to hit? Hey, maybe that’s another thing.
Cobb mentioned “five years” in his interview with MLB Network Radio a couple weeks ago, but most projections have him landing a four-year deal in the $60 million range. Cobb is tied to draft pick compensation, so he’d cost the Cubs their second highest draft pick in 2018 (and $500,000 in IFA pool space) to sign. If the Yankees wind up over the luxury tax cap for 2017 (as they project to), their penalties would be much stiffer to sign Cobb: their second highest AND fifth highest pick, and $1 million in IFA pool space. So there’s another advantage for the Cubs.
The point here is to pass along the Gammons report, and also just to keep on your radar the fact that even though it sure FEELS like Cobb to the Cubs is a fait accompli, there will be other interested teams. And, apparently, the Yankees want him just as much as the Cubs.