O's send Cobb to Angels for prospect Jones

February 3rd, 2021

In the latest of a series of moves that have reshaped their roster and furthered their rebuilding goals, the Orioles on Tuesday evening finalized a trade to send to the Angels in a complicated deal that yielded one big league-ready prospect and significant payroll relief.

The Orioles received second baseman Jahmai Jones in the deal from the Angels, who will pay $5 million of Cobb’s $15 million salary for 2021, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Baltimore remains on the hook for the rest, $4.5 million of which is deferred. This is the final season in a four-year, $57 million contract.

The Orioles confirmed the deal Tuesday after it was approved by the league office.

Orioles get:
2B prospect Jahmai Jones
Angels get: RHP Alex Cobb, cash considerations

The deal ended a disappointing tenure with Baltimore for the veteran right-hander, who arrived ahead of the 2018 season on the largest free-agent contract for a pitcher in franchise history.

Cobb, now 33, posted a 3.50 ERA in 115 starts over his first six big league seasons with Tampa Bay. He never rediscovered that success in Baltimore, pitching to career-worst numbers in 2018 and missing all but three starts in ’19 due to back problems and right hip surgery. Cobb proved he was healthy, if not durable, over 10 starts in '20, going 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.

All told, Cobb went 7-22 with 5.10 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 41 starts for the Orioles from 2018-20.

The Angels' second-round Draft pick out of the Georgia high school ranks in 2015, Jones is a versatile, athletic infielder who was ranked their No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline. A right-handed hitter with plus speed and strong plate discipline, Jones turned heads in the 2019 Arizona Fall League, then made his Major League debut in '20, going 3-for-7 in limited action. He played both infield and outfield in the Minors, and he could make an immediate impact on an Orioles team thin on upper-level infield depth.

In that sense, Jones is more advanced than the many prospects acquired over the past few years by general manager/EVP Mike Elias, who has restocked the Orioles’ farm system by aggressively shopping more veteran pieces like Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, José Iglesias and others. Both the Bundy and Iglesias deals were also swung with the Angels, netting the O’s six pitching prospects in return. Bundy broke out as the Halos’ ace during his first season with Los Angeles, going 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 72 strikeouts.

Those deals helped reduce the Orioles’ payroll by roughly $100 million since Cobb signed in 2018; Tuesday’s trade lowered Baltimore’s projected Opening Day payroll to around $55 million, per Cot's Contracts -- roughly 40 percent of which is owed to Chris Davis. The difference between what Davis ($21 million) and what Trey Mancini, the O’s next-highest-paid player, will make in '21 is $16.5 million; as it stands, the pair of them and Anthony Santander are the only Orioles owed at least $2 million next season.

The O's projected Opening Day payroll would rank third-lowest in the Major Leagues, per Cot's; they played with baseball’s second-lowest payroll in 2020.

That Cobb is the last veteran Elias inherited to be dealt (besides Davis) speaks to the difficulty of moving the money attached, which dampened trade interest for Cobb throughout the past year-plus. Speaking at the virtual Winter Meetings in December, Elias downplayed the likelihood of Cobb being dealt, despite his obvious trade candidacy.

“It would be beneficial to us to go into the season with Alex if that’s the way that it shakes out, having that front-end spot in the rotation fortified with his ability and veteran presence,” Elias said. “He’s serving a very important role in our team, stabilizing our rotation with young guys, mentoring young guys, and we’re planning on keeping him all year.”

LeBlanc joins rotation competition

Cobb's departure briefly opened another hole in an Orioles rotation ripe with opportunity behind ace John Means, though they filled it quickly by re-signing to a Minor League deal Tuesday night.

LeBlanc, 36, joins a jumbled spring competition for the next four rotation spots that includes two Top 15 prospects — No. 10 Dean Kremer and No. 15 lefty Keegan Akin -- as well as Jorge Lopez and Bruce Zimmermann. The O’s are also expected to give long looks this spring to No. 9 righty Michael Baumann and No. 11 lefty Zac Lowther, and they could add at least one more veteran starter on a big league deal.