As the free agency dominoes fall ahead of Opening Day, Alex Cobb still stands without a team. The young righty's market has quieted significantly in the past month and now that Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, and Jake Arrieta have all found new homes for themselves, Cobb is running out of excuses. He needs to consider his future and pick a new team, the sooner the better.
Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last year, his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015. There is indeed a team for him out there but in order for him to find it, Cobb must lower his contract demands.
The slow market
It doesn't help Cobb that this year's free agency market has crawled slower than molasses. The fact that Arrieta and Lynn didn't sign their respective contracts with the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins until the past couple of days shows just how frugal teams are being ahead of next year's Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and maybe even Clayton Kershaw sweepstakes. Why spend money this year when next year's class features deeper and better talent?
Cobb has also been hampered by his demands. Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times reported back in December that the 30-year-old righty was seeking about $20m a year. That's a tall order for any team considering Cobb, who has never made 30 starts in a season and tossed a career-high 179.1 innings last year. Cobb has also never played in an All-Star Game, nor has he ever been considered the ace of the staff.
Thus, if the price tag lowers (as it should), then Cobb's suitors should line up to sign him ahead of Opening Day.
The case for Cobb
Injury issues aside, Cobb pitched as expected in 2017. His home runs per nine innings (HR/9) was a respectable 1.10, and he did a good job of keeping his walks down. Cobb also allowed less than a hit per inning despite not being a dominant strikeout picture. He also posted a ground ball rate (GB%) of 47.8%, also decent even though it's a drop from his career GB% of 54%.
Cobb was once again prone to pitching to contact and only had a soft contact percentage of 14.9% compared to 48.2% medium contact and 36.9% hard contact. Baseball is trending towards an approach built around quality contact, so that could also scare potential Cobb suitors away unless a particular team's home stadium favors pitchers.
Again, there is a team for Cobb out there. It's just that his not being a strikeout pitcher coupled with his injury history has prevented him from finding the right fit up to this point.
A new home, but where?
The crazy part is that up until last month, Cobb seemed to be generating quite a bit of interest among teams. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported back in November that the Texas Rangers were interested in adding Cobb, and a month later reported the Milwaukee Brewers as being interested. It was rumored around the same time that Cobb would accept a four-year, $70m contract, but nothing came of that.
Most recently, however, back in early February, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted the New York Mets could be interested in adding Cobb if his price tag went down. Now that we're roughly two weeks out from Opening Day, it's crunch time.
The worst part of the Cobb saga is that each of the teams just mentioned could really use him. The Brewers will be without Jimmy Nelson to start the season as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery, and Cobb could help round out and stabilize the team's rotation until Nelson is fully healthy. Texas needs a lot of help behind Cole Hamels after failing to bring back Yu Darvish. The Mets would have been a good fit, but they signed Jason Vargas and now don't have room for Cobb.
Even the Minnesota Twins, who just committed $12m to Lance Lynn and also traded for Jake Odorizzi last month, could use Cobb to round out their rotation behind Lynn, Ervin Santana, and Jose Berrios.
The market is there for Cobb to find a team ahead of Opening Day and get his wheels under him in time for the season. It's just a matter of him swallowing his pride and accepting that his wish for $20m a year may not come true.