The Orioles Are Digging Alex Cobb, Too – Let's Talk About the Reasonable Price Tag

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The Orioles Are Digging Alex Cobb, Too – Let’s Talk About the Reasonable Price Tag

Chicago Cubs Rumors, MLB News and Rumors

Earlier today, we talked about Peter Gammons’ report that the “industry consensus” is that the Cubs and Yankees will be battling it out for free agent Alex Cobb, but they aren’t the only teams reportedly in on the righty.

The Orioles have a need for a rotation stabilizer like Cobb, with questions about Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy at the top, and then literally no one firmly established behind them. How aggressive that could make them on Cobb is an interesting question, and then how that might drive up the price on a team like the Cubs is an even more interesting one.

Recall, Cobb was rather explicit that the decision wasn’t going to be about money for him, but you have to be realistic: when an athlete has what might be his ONE serious crack at free agency, even if money isn’t a primary motivator, they simply don’t take a ton less from a team they really like to avoid going to a team they like less … but who’s offering another year and $15 million more.

The Cubs very much need a steady starter in a rotation that right now features three solid guys and a gaping maw at the back end. But just because the market is thin doesn’t mean the Cubs should necessarily go to five years on Cobb unless they can do so in a way that drives down his AAV to a really attractive range (i.e., you’d be much happier about a 5/$65 million deal than a 4/$60 million deal).

The guy has talent, is just 30, and has the upside to once again be a guy – like he was pre-surgery – who can post a sub-3.00 ERA and a low-3s FIP. But he also has the downside of a guy who got great results last year despite having some truly terrifying peripherals:

I feel like I have to mention one lingering thing that has me a little nervous about Cobb, though. As a contact-manager type (his strikeout rate last year was just 17.3%, 12th lowest among all qualified starters in baseball), his success is predicated so much on his ability to generate weak contact and limit hard contact, and preferably to get groundballs. Pre-surgery, he was an elite groundball pitcher. Last year, he was merely above average. Moreover, at 36.9%, Cobb allowed the 5th highest hard contact rate in baseball. His 14.9% soft contact rate was second lowest. So, then, how much of his success was owed to having the best center fielder in baseball out there to snag balls that got crushed?

I do want the Cubs to sign Cobb. I think the fit is right for a team that needs innings, and I do buy that Cobb – as he gets further away from surgery and perhaps resumes effectively throwing his changeup – has the upside to be very good again. At age 30, it’s worth taking a risk and betting on a guy like that.

But the risk has to be weighed against future needs, and how well the Cubs believe they can eat it if the signing is a total bust. For me, that line is at a reasonable four-year deal (assuming the kind of lower AAV deal I mentioned above is not realistic). Much beyond $60 million for those four years, and I get really squeamish about the possibility that the Cubs are paying for the weakness in the market, not so much paying for the value in the pitcher.


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.