Before going into the 2018 regular season, the Baltimore Orioles have a number of questions that need to be answered, mainly their rotation.
With right-handed starting pitcher Alex Cobb remaining unsigned, even with Jake Arrieta (Philadelphia Phillies) and Lance Lynn (Minnesota Twins) being signed, Baltimore hasn’t budged on the Cobb front. Cobb has had some injury history and Baltimore has been really tough on potential free-agents who have had physical ailments in the past.
Evan Davis of FanRag Sports wrote about how Cobb may possibly have to take less, despite being one of the top pitchers in this free-agent class:
It’s terrifying to think that Cobb might not get anywhere close to the deal he deserves. Maybe he was never going to get a $20 million AAV, but after Lynn signed for only a year and $12 million, does Cobb settle for $4 million? Less? Does he sign at all? He’s a pitcher; every contender needs pitching, despite some mealy-mouthed protestations to the contrary. Cobb is a pretty good one, and a three-year, $45 million contract, while not exactly ideal, would be a lot closer to acceptable than what might be on the horizon.
Ghost of injuries past
During the off-season in 2013, the Orioles agreed to a two-year/$15 million deal with relief pitcher Grant Balfour. However, the deal fell through when Baltimore’s doctors found issues with his physical. He ended up pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays, where he had a 4.91 ERA and was removed from the closer’s role in 2014. Baltimore ended up going with Tommy Hunter as the closer to begin the season and then went to Zach Britton, who has been one of the most successful closers in the past few seasons.
Then there was Yovani Gallardo, who the Orioles agreed to deal with in the 2015 off-season, before passing his physical. However, Baltimore ended up re-working the deal, after they found an issue with Gallardo’s physical. Gallardo would have the worst year of his career, pitching to a 6-8 record and 5.42 ERA. Baltimore would end up trading Gallardo for left-handed outfielder Seth Smith, who slashed .258/.340/.433, hitting 13 home runs and 32 RBI.
Cobb could help
In both situations, things turned out pretty well for the Orioles. They ended up with Britton as their closer instead of Balfour, who has since retired and a solid outfielder in Smith, who got on-base at a consistent clip. The biggest difference with this situation with Cobb is that he wasn’t injured last season and pitched to a 12-10, 3.66 ERA and a 1.221 WHIP in 179.1 innings pitched.
In this situation, Baltimore is staring a pitcher in the face that could help their starting rotation immediately and yet have done nothing about it. He was fully healthy and had a good season. The same could not be said for the rest of Baltimore’s starting rotation, outside of Andrew Cashner, who wasn’t part of Baltimore’s rotation last season. It is understandable that they are worried about his physical, but they could still give him a one-year deal, just as a “prove it” contract. In a rotation with many unknowns, Baltimore should go with the person that they know has had success.
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