Alex Cobb watched the ball touch down in short left field and threw his arms up in the air. He’d just tossed his final pitch Saturday night at Sahlen Field, a two-seamer running in off the plate and towards the hands of Teoscar Hernández. It was a pitcher’s pitch, where Cobb wanted it.
But like much of his time on the mound during Saturday’s 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays, desired results eluded Cobb after the baseball left his hand. Hernández fought the pitch off enough to dunk it in for a single, ending an outing Cobb spent frustrated by hard contact and several defensive plays not made behind him. All told, the veteran righty allowed five runs (four earned) over four-plus innings in his final start before Monday’s Trade Deadline.
“It was one of those days where warming up in the 'pen, the ball isn’t going where you want it to and you know it’s going to be a battle,” Cobb said. “There just wasn’t a lot of crispness to my pitches.”
The Orioles’ offense mustered little by way of support against Taijuan Walker, who fired six shutout innings in his Blue Jays debut. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and rebuilds don’t last three weeks. Since opening the year with 12 wins in 20 games, Baltimore has now lost 10 of its last 12. The offense is averaging 3.4 runs per game over that stretch.
“I thought today was the first time when we looked like a tired team,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve been through a lot this season so far. It’s emotionally draining. I think we are physically tired and we’re emotionally tired.”
All of which makes the rebuilding Orioles one of baseball’s few clear sellers heading into Monday’s Deadline, which now looms less than 48 hours away. Healthy this year after missing most of 2019 due to hip surgery, Cobb has a 4.33 ERA, a 24-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a groundball rate north of 50 percent. He’d been roughly a league-average pitcher through his first six starts, averaging 5 2/3 innings in those outings. Cobb’s career numbers (54-55 record; 3.87 ERA) are also eerily similar to Walker’s (34-33, 3.91 ERA), who was traded from Seattle to Toronto this week.
There are two complicating factors in trading Cobb: He’s owed approximately $17 million through 2021 and has a no-trade clause to 10 teams in '20. At 32, he is also four years older than Walker. Dealing the veteran righty would almost certainly require Baltimore to eat some of his remaining salary, or swap it for a similar-sized contract of some sort.
Asked how he felt heading into the deadline, Cobb said, “This year there is no way to try to even create some sort of hypothesis of what’s going to happen.” Part of that is the unusual market dynamics brought on by this 60-game season. Another is all the mental energy the Orioles have expended off the field lately, from dealing with the pandemic, to their up-and-down season in the standings, to the week they just spent focusing on social issues. Cobb said “it feels like two Augusts combined into one."
“Everyone we talk to -- physically, emotionally -- is just drained. This year has taken a toll on everybody.” Cobb said. "It definitely doesn’t feel like we're 30 games in and fresh. It’s feel like we’re on Game 230.”