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Could The Orioles Sign RHP Alex Cobb?

November 6, 2017
Throughout the next several weeks, we'll be looking at some prospective free agents the Orioles may be interested in. Not surprisingly, most of them are pitchers.
 
Alex Cobb
 
Vital stats: Cobb is a 30-year-old right-hander who has spent his entire six-year career with the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a 48-35 record with a 3.50 ERA in 115 starts. After missing most of the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts in 2017.
 
Orioles connection: The Orioles have seen a lot of Cobb throughout his career. Cobb is 6-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 12 starts against them. He's faced center fielder Adam Jones more than any other major league batter. Jones is 9-for 35 (.257) with one RBI against him.
 
Where would he fit? Cobb could slide behind right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the team's rotation. His control would definitely help. Cobb has allowed 2.6 walks per nine innings in his career, and the Orioles allowed the second-most walks in the American League this season.
 
Why wouldn't he fit? Cobb's attributes are those in demand around baseball, and like St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn, he fits in the upper-echelon of starters right behind Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish and Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta. He'll have multiple suitors, and the Orioles would have to be aggressive in their pursuit.
 
Scouting report: "Definitely be a fit for the Orioles," a major league scout said. "Strike-thrower, not overpowering … around the plate with all his pitches."
 
MLBTradeRumors.com ranks Cobb 11th in its recent ranking of the top 50 free agents, two spots behind Lynn. It predicts Cobb could sign for four years and $48 million with the Minnesota Twins.
 
Tampa Bay is reportedly going to make a $17.4 million qualifying offer for Cobb. That's interesting because the Rays are loath to pay big money, even if there's little chance that Cobb would take the offer.
 
In order to get Cobb, the Orioles would have to step outside their comfort zone. If the estimate of his market is correct, they'd have to give Cobb a deal similar to the one they gave right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (four years, $50 million) in February 2014.
 
And, they'll have to jockey with a number of other clubs for his services. In Jimenez's case, the Orioles didn't sign the right-hander until spring training when there weren't any other apparent competitors.
 
Getting Cobb might be easier than Lynn, who is reportedly seeking a five-year contract for more than $100 million.
 
Lynn has spent his entire career in the National League, and many free-agent pitchers are unwilling to the leave the NL and pitch in the American League to designated hitters.
 
Cobb has pitched his entire career in the American League East, and he's had some success in AL East parks. He's 5-1 with a 3.15 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park in Boston and 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA in five Yankee Stadium assignments.
 
At home in pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field, Cobb is 23-19 with a 3.10 ERA in 58 starts. At Oriole Park he's 3-1 with a 4.62 ERA in seven starts, and he's 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
 
Two prominent Orioles batters have struggled against Cobb. First baseman Chris Davis is 4-for-22 (.182) with a home run and third baseman Manny Machado is 5-for-26 (.192) with two homers and five RBIs when facing Cobb.
 
Jones, Davis and Machado surely would be eager to play behind Cobb instead of batting against him. 
 
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