While a handful of teams are still in the market for starting pitching, right-hander Alex Cobb remains a free agent despite a strong 2017 season in which he went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and a 2.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio.Feinsand predicts Brewers as landing spot for Cobb
Given their lineup upgrades
While a handful of teams are still in the market for starting pitching, right-hander Alex Cobb remains a free agent despite a strong 2017 season in which he went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and a 2.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Feinsand predicts Brewers as landing spot for Cobb
Given their lineup upgrades after an aggressive offseason and the immediate hole left by injured No. 1 starter Jimmy Nelson, the Brewers may make the most sense to sign Cobb after not landing Jacob Arrieta and Yu Darvish -- both of whom the club was linked to. In this light, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand predicts that Milwaukee will be Cobb's eventual landing spot, and perhaps on a one-year deal to re-establish his value and hit the market next offseason without Draft-pick compensation attached to him after he turned down the Rays' qualifying offer.
Feinsand points out that Milwaukee assistant general manager Matt Arnold is familiar with Cobb, having worked in the Rays' front office for 10 seasons. Cobb was a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in the 2006 Draft, Arnold's first year with the organization when he was a scout.
Despite their impressive 2017, finishing just one game shy of the postseason, the Brewers are projected to go 78-84 in '18, per FanGraphs, even accounting for the lineup additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. While projections don't manifest into certainty, the club may be inclined to fortify a rotation that last year finished in the top five in the National League in ERA (4.10) and fWAR (13.3) -- particularly in a division that houses a Cubs rotation that may be among the NL's best.
Milwaukee made a nice addition with Jhoulys Chacin, one of the more underrated free-agent starters this offseason, to go with Opening Day starter Chase Anderson and Zach Davies -- each of whom are coming off very strong seasons. But adding a proven veteran like Cobb, particularly if the Brewers can get him on a shorter deal, would set them up nicely for when Nelson returns from shoulder surgery midsummer. -- This report was first posted on March 15.
Could Twins step up for Cobb?
Yu Darvish, presumably the Twins' top target in this offseason's free-agent starter market, is off the board. Minnesota figures to still make a rotation-related move as it hopes to take the next step into contention, and MLB Network insider Jon Heyman predicted Thursday in a post for FanRag Sports that the Twins will ultimately be Cobb's landing spot. The right-hander would add a veteran presence near the top of a rotation that will be without Ervin Santana on Opening Day, and Cobb's price tag -- along with Lance Lynn's -- appears to align more with the Twins' financial flexibility than top remaining free agent Jacob Arrieta.
:: Free agent buzz ::
Heyman also cited the Brewers, Mets, Orioles, Phillies and Yankees as possible suitors for Cobb's services in 2018.
-- This report was first posted on Feb. 15.
Cobb market likely to materialize after other deals
Sources told MLB.com on Saturday that Darvish, the top available arm on the free-agent market, and the Cubs have agreed to a six-year deal that guarantees the right-hander $126 million and has incentives that could push it to $150 million.
Arrieta, the consensus No. 2 starting pitcher on the market, continues to be linked to more than a half-dozen teams, showing no signs of an imminent decision.
The next two starters available are Lynn and Cobb, both of whom could be fallback plans for teams that come up short in their bids for Darvish and Arrieta.
With that in mind, it's fair to ask: Are Lynn and Cobb essentially obliged to wait for Darvish and/or Arrieta to sign before they can land their own respective deals?
According to one longtime executive, while either starter would help a rotation, neither Lynn nor Cobb will make any club feel better about losing out on one of the top two.
"I see them both as No. 3 or 4 starters," the executive said. "Neither gets me excited, but I'd take them both on my team."
At a certain price, anyway. Reports have indicated that both Cobb and Lynn are seeking deals worth $15 million to $20 million annually over four, five or even six years. The contracts signed in recent years by Ian Kennedy (five years, $70 million), Wei-Yin Chen (five years, $80 million), Mike Leake (five years, $80 million) and Jeff Samardzija (five years, $90 million) would help make a case for Lynn and Cobb, but in this year's slow-moving market, it remains to be seen whether they'll get the deals they seek.
The executive pointed to the four-year, $50 million deal Matt Garza signed four years ago as the type of contract he would give either Lynn or Cobb, though he wouldn't be surprised to see either pitcher sign a deal similar to the three-year, $38 million pact the Cubs gave Tyler Chatwood in early December.
That feels a little light for both starters, especially Lynn, whose overall body of work is far deeper than Cobb's.
Lynn missed the entire 2016 season following Tommy John surgery, while Cobb was out for all of '15 and the first five months of '16 after undergoing the same procedure. But Lynn has topped 175 innings in all five of his full seasons, surpassing 200 twice. Cobb's 179 1/3 innings over 29 starts last season represented career highs in both categories.
To his benefit, Cobb is the youngest of the top four starters; he turns 31 in October, while Lynn turns 31 in May, Arrieta turns 32 in March and Darvish turns 32 in August.
"You can dream on a little more upside with Cobb," a Major League scout said. "But there's more risk, too."
The scout tabbed Lynn as "a solid No. 4 starter," so while he might not provide the front-line presence of Darvish or Arrieta, the former Cardinal would be an asset for a team seeking dependable rotation depth.
"He does it mostly with the variation of one pitch and clearly is capable of logging competitive innings," the scout said of Lynn. "His ability to pitch with the fastball -- sinker and cutter -- and ability to execute and induce weak contact are real."
The executive also noted Lynn's heavy reliance on his fastball -- he threw fastballs nearly 80 percent of the time in 2017, according to Statcast™ -- as a drawback, though one that would concern him less than Cobb's lengthy injury history.
Both pitchers rejected $17.4 million qualifying offers, meaning any team that signs them will be subject to the loss of one or more Draft picks, depending on their payroll and luxury-tax status.
The Cubs have been a popular prediction for Cobb, who has history with both manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey from their time together with Tampa Bay. The Twins, Brewers, Rangers, Cardinals and Phillies have also been mentioned as possibilities.
As for Lynn, the same group of teams have largely been rumored as potential suitors. Not surprisingly, most of them have also been connected to Darvish and/or Arrieta, contributing to the belief that, like Cobb, Lynn is a realistic Plan B for many of them.
It's still conceivable that Lynn and/or Cobb will wind up in that Kennedy-Chen-Leake-Samardzija territory, as all it takes is two teams to begin bidding against each other to drive up the price. But like most other notable free agents, they'll have to continue to exercise patience.