Cobb can help the Orioles' young starters in 2021 -

Rich Dubroff

Cobb can help the Orioles’ young starters in 2021

In 2018, Alex Cobb received the most expensive contract given to a free agent pitcher in team history. Cobb’s four-year, $57 million deal hasn’t worked out well for the Orioles.

Even if Cobb had pitched well in his first season, it wouldn’t have made much difference for the Orioles, who were on their way to a franchise-worst 115 losses.

At the time Cobb signed, the Orioles were hoping for a final run at a playoff spot. They signed not only Cobb, but another free-agent pitcher, Andrew Cashner.

Cashner’s deal was for only two years, and he pitched well enough in the first half of the 2019 season to create a market for himself. The Orioles peddled him to the Boston Red Sox in July for two teenage Dominican Summer League prospects.

The Orioles would like to deal Cobb, but in this depressed economic environment, it will be hard to find a team who’ll want to take on the final $15 million he’s owed for 2021.

Cobb is already owed $20 million in deferred money and since the 60-game season didn’t allow him to pitch 130 innings in 2020, $5.5 million of his 2021 salary is also deferred.

In a stronger baseball economy, the Orioles could help pay some of Cobb’s salary, but that might not be possible in 2021.

Cobb’s deferred money will be paid out between 2022 and 2035.

Making a deal for Cobb will test the creativity of executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. On the other hand, Cobb can help 2021 Orioles.


After a lost 2019 season when he needed hip and knee surgery after just three starts, Cobb had a better 2020.

His 2018 got off to a late start because he didn’t sign until March 21. In the first half of the season, Cobb was 2-12 with a 6.41 ERA but threw significantly better in the second half when he was 3-3 with a 2.56 ERA. His season was shortened because of blisters in September.

After last year’s shutdown, Cobb had to deal with the broken rhythms of 2020. He didn’t pitch badly, going 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA. According to, his WAR was 1.0.

There’s one strange stat in Cobb’s time with the Orioles. In his three years in Baltimore, he’s yet to win a game at home.

Cobb is 0-11 with a 5.29 ERA at home; 7-11 with a 5.04 ERA on the road.

Should Cobb return to the Orioles for 2021, he can be an innings-eater. Since Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann had relatively few competitive innings in 2020, they’re likely to be restricted when next year begins.

The Orioles will need starters who can go deep into games, and Cobb worked six and seven innings in his last two starts. John Means, who rebounded nicely in September, and a healthy Cobb could take pressure off the inexperienced starters.

Through the trades of Cashner, Dylan Bundy, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens, the Orioles have accumulated some young talent. The two players to be named later in the August 30th deal for starter Tommy Milone haven’t been announced.

If the Orioles are able to unload Cobb’s salary, they’ll probably sign a veteran pitcher or two to minor league contracts as they did with Milone and Wade LeBlanc last season. Cobb can veto trades to 10 clubs in 2021.

But if they don’t make a deal, keeping Cobb might turn out to be a positive move, especially his influence on younger players.

Cobb has gone on unannounced humanitarian missions to help the underprivileged, and he has been a steadfast supporter of the military and police officers. His brother, R.J., was awarded the Purple Heart during his service in Iraq.

When the Orioles decided not to play their scheduled August 27th game at Tampa Bay after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Cobb spoke movingly about supporting his Black teammates and the police.

“I’m learning to not look at it through those lenses anymore,” Cobb said. “In the beginning, you had to be one side or the other. You had to be for our police or for our inner-city communities, and I just don’t think that was the right way to look at things.

“I will always respect every single person that puts on a uniform and goes out to protect us, but I also have had too many moments where I look into my teammates’ eyes or my friends’ eyes that I can see that they’re dealing with some real struggles and that their hearts are heavy, and we need to find a way to start the conversation of mending the two sides rather than picking a side. I don’t know what that avenue is.

“It’s something that’s evolving each day. What we’re seeing in our communities and now with our athletes, where there was a lot of friction before, I think that it’s starting to mend a little bit. I think that’s a good first step. I pray that we’re able to find a way for everybody to just love everybody.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. Rob IsraOsFan

    October 21, 2020 at 7:30 am

    If he is lucky enough to have an injury-free 2021, then yes, he can be a good mentor to the youngins. Was interesting to read that he has zero victories at Camden Yards during the past three years. I was curious to know if he has a lifetime curse in Baltimore…according to the Baseball Almanac, he went 3-1 in OPACY as a member of the Rays.

  2. chico salmon

    October 21, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Thank you for your well written and thoughtful column focused on Alex Cobb. I’ve always liked him, as a player and a man. He’s had terrible luck since coming here, both with injuries and having to endure a rebuild. My outsider sense tells me that Elias will make every effort to trade Cobb, with the Orioles eating a percentage of his contract. We’ve not gotten to see the Alex Cobb that was so good with the Rays. We may never.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 21, 2020 at 9:51 am

      A sensible fan amongst us. I agree with Chico.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

    Thank goodness nobody is likely to want to take on that last chunk of $$ the team owes him. That should make it difficult for Elias to give him away for the bag of peanuts most of us around here seem to think he’s worth. I’m not one of those that do. I believe he’s a decent enough major league quality starting pitcher, stuck in a bad, bad situation, both organization-wise as well has ballpark-wise. He’s one year further out from the surgeries and I’ll be expecting more from him. He may not be worth the more-than-generous contract Duquette signed him to, but since the team isn’t getting out of it, we might as well ride it out. It’s not like he’s played down to Crush Davis standards. Besides … who do we have to replace him?

    • chico salmon

      October 21, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      If memory serves, Cobb was a Brady Anderson signing.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    October 21, 2020 at 10:03 am

    I have to disagree. If you want veteran leadership, bring in someone who knows how to win, who has been to the big dance. Cobb has had ample opportunity to resuscitate his career. At this point he is who he is, and this notion he is going to start mowing them down in the early summer then bring back a prospect package is just silly. Give the innings he’s supposedly going to eat to some young pitchers to get experience in the Show. No “exciting new era for baseball in Baltimore” or whatever can begin until Cobb and you-know-who are no longer around. Give me youth. If the Birds come in fourth or fifth with a bunch of 22 and 23 year olds learning how to play, I’m all for it. Rolling out these ghosts of Christmas past sends an unacceptable message.

    • willmiranda

      October 21, 2020 at 10:55 am

      Ban, I think the suggestion here is that we make Cobb the team’s new, highly-paid pitching coach because he’s a nice guy. It seems cruel to disagree. On the other hand, the argument is not compelling.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 21, 2020 at 11:02 am

      BanMo … I’m not disagreeing with what you’re saying, but I’m not sure that we have a “bunch” of 22/23 year olds. I’m also concerned with the arm health of the youngsters that we do have … and I keep going back to what happened with Dylan Bundy. My main concern though, is that win or lose, I really don’t want to go back to 2019 where the team was down by double digits before the game even got to the 5th inning. Cobb at least kept it under 10 runs more often than not.

    • chico salmon

      October 21, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Mussina and McDonald have talked about the importance of Rick Sutcliffe as a leader for the young staff in the early 90’s. I’m not ready to put Hall and GRod in the same category as Moose and Ben, but I get the concept.

  5. Orial

    October 21, 2020 at 10:48 am

    I find it ironic that we’re looking for a leader on the staff at the same time we’re watching what looks like a finally successful pitching coach get shown the door. Yes I’ve thought it before that Cobb could be that man but he’s gone for 2 months every season. I’d rather see a veteran winning,leader step in at 2B and direct the IFers and stop the chaos every time a ball is put in play.

    • Birdman

      October 21, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Still wonder if we have gotten the full story on the Brocail firing? It just doesn’t seem to add up. Was there a personality conflict, or something else going that we are not aware of?

      Difficult to believe that any major league organization looking to rebuild and develop a young pitching staff, even one as frugal as the Orioles, would actually fire an effective pitching coach just to save a couple of hundred thousand bucks.

      • Bancells Moustache

        October 21, 2020 at 12:53 pm

        The Orioles set the record for most home runs given up while losing 100+ games, then came in fourth. While the Brocail firing was unexpected, calling him effective is a bit of a stretch.

        • Birdman

          October 21, 2020 at 1:36 pm

          Orioles pitching did show some progress under Brocail. In 2018, the last season before Brocail became pitching coach, O’s staff finished 15th out of 15 AL teams in both ERA and WHIP. In 2020, the staff was in the middle of the AL pack, 9th in ERA, and 7th in WHIP.

      • Phil770

        October 21, 2020 at 3:11 pm

        Couldn’t keep both Chris Holt and Brocail. If Holt is not the O’s pitching coach, then agree. Same for Flores as 3B coach, though he was far less effective than Brocail. Couldn’t keep both Gonzales and Flores. Look for Freddi to be 3B coach next year. Also remember that there is no guarantee that MLB will be back to normal for 2021 season. Revenue could be worse, cash will certainly be more stressed.

  6. CalsPals

    October 21, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Gonna take the high road regarding Corn Cobb…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 21, 2020 at 4:29 pm

      This disappoints me.

    • CalsPals

      October 21, 2020 at 7:17 pm

      Sorry man, blood pressure gets too high when I think of him or CD….maybe pitching & batting coaches…lmao…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 21, 2020 at 8:41 pm

        So let the vitriol rip! Give it to ’em high and inside!

  7. Shamus

    October 21, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    COBB??!! Really???

  8. dlgruber1

    October 21, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    I believe one of the signs of any good team is a stable coaching staff. The O’s have had a revolving door of pitching coaches for a long time. I’m old enough to remember George Bamberger and then Ray Miller. Of course it certainly helped that they had established pitchers who were very good but still, it can’t help a pitchers development going from coach to coach practically every season.

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