On Sunday, Jim Bowden of The Athletic sent out this tweet, claiming that the Baltimore Orioles remain in discussion with free agent RHP Alex Cobb.
#Orioles remain in constant contact with Alex Cobb's representatives according to sources but still apart on value. #Phillies staying in touch with both Jake Arrietta & Lance Lynn representatives according to sources. #Nationals #Brewers still considered possibilities for FA SP
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) March 5, 2018
Orioles’ General Manager Dan Duquette is notorious for making a flurry of free agent signings this time of year. Unfortunately, they tend to be additions, like those he’s added over the past week with Danny Valencia and Pedro Alvarez. There’s no reason to dislike Alvarez, but what exactly does he bring to the Orioles? With no room on the 25-man roster, I’m not sure if he will accept another assignment to AAA Norfolk as he did last year.
On the other hand, there is Danny Valencia. The veteran can play multiple positions but said over the weekend that he would not accept a minor league assignment. Cool. Glad he was signed and is such a team player. Valencia was a 1.0 WAR player last year with Seattle, meaning that Austin Hays or Jaycob Brugman can put up similar production.
Signing Alex Cobb would go a long way in changing the Orioles’ narrative. At the moment, the Orioles rotation looks like:
The Baltimore Orioles need to sign Alex Cobb.
Signing Alex Cobb would make the Baltimore Orioles a much more respectable team. I’m not saying he would make the Orioles a playoff team, however, when this offense clicks, it can’t be stopped. Adding Cobb would make this the best starting rotation the city of Baltimore has seen in years.
Cobb returned to the mound last season, nearly fully recovered from a Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss nearly two full seasons of baseball. With Tampa Bay last season, Cobb went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 179 innings. The large workload post-surgery didn’t seem to slow Cobb down. Actually, he slightly improved in a number of categories over the course of the second half of the season. His ERA, WHIP, opponents’ batting average, and ground ball rate all increased.
He wasn’t far from his pre-surgery form. In the two seasons, before surgery shut Cobb down, he was a combined 21-12 with a sub-3.00 ERA. Looking a little deeper into his performance from last season, Cobb appears set to re-emerge as one of the more reliable and effective pitchers in the league, as he was pre-surgery.
According to Fangraphs, his average fastball velocity matched his career high of 91.7 mph. He relied on that fastball more than ever before in his career, nearly 52% of the time. Known for having one of the more elite changeups in baseball, Cobb didn’t use it at all last season. Pre-surgery, Cobb used his changeup between 33-38% of the time, but that number dove to just 14% in 2017. The result? More fly balls, harder hit balls, and more home runs allowed.
Cobb’s lack of changeup use isn’t out of the ordinary when it comes to pitchers recovering from Tommy John. The change is usually the last pitch to come back post-surgery.
This excerpt is from Eno Sarris, formerly of Fangraphs, about Alex Cobb and his nonexistent changeup, despite it being one of the best pitches in baseball.
“Back in 2014, the split change was remarkable. Only five changeups got more swinging strikes, total, that season. Roughly 34% of the time, it was a swinging strike or a ground ball, which was eighth-best among changeups thrown 200 times that year and second-best among changeups thrown 500 times that season. It didn’t have a great velocity gap, but it dropped a whopping five inches more than his sinker. The average righty change, meanwhile, drops just a half-inch more than the sinker.”
According to Bowden, the Orioles and representatives of Cobb are in constant contact, but can’t agree to the financials. He’s only 30 years old, recovered from surgery, and if he can regain that devastating changeup, he can be a dominant weapon against the powerful American League East.
Here’s a breakdown of his performance against AL East teams (New York, Boston, and Toronto). Open up the checkbook and pay him.