Starting pitcher Alex Cobb is entering the final year of a four-year, $57 million contract with the Orioles. Cobb, a 33-year-old right-hander, would be difficult to trade in this economic market.
“He’s serving a very important role on our team, stabilizing our rotation with the young guys, mentoring the young guys,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said in a Tuesday conference call.
“We’re planning on keeping him all year and would be thrilled if he contributed and is healthy again like he was last year and stabilized the entire roster that way.”
Cobb was 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts in the 60-game 2020 season.
“He is coming up on the last year of his deal with the Orioles,” Elias said. “He’s a big-time, known name across the league. Teams are going to be interested in him … I have no doubt if he pitches like Alex Cobb, he’s going to draw interest. We’re going to also see where we’re at and see what the situation is. Anytime you have a veteran pitcher pitching well, healthy and is essentially on a one-year deal, that’s going to attract a lot of interest.”
Elias said he’d be happy to hold on to Cobb.
“I think it would be beneficial for us to go into the season with Alex if that’s the way it shakes out,” Elias said. “Having that front-end spot of the rotation fortified with his ability and veteran presence, I can see a lot of positives there.”
Elias expects Rule 5 action: The Orioles, who have made at least one selection in each Rule 5 draft since 2006, have two open roster spots on the 40-man roster.
Elias thinks they’ll keep their streak intact.
“We’re rebuilding. I do believe it’s easier for a team in a rebuilding cycle generally to take a chance on the Rule 5 draft,” he said. “Also we’ve got the fifth overall pick, which usually means there are better players on the board than if you’re picking in the 20s.”
Elias will meet with the baseball operations staff on Wednesday night to discuss the draft.
“If, ultimately, there are only four players we feel are worth taking and they all go, 1, 2, 3, 4, then we won’t take anyone, but that seems really unlikely to me,” Elias said. “I imagine our list will be longer than that, and the Rule 5 never goes like that. I wouldn’t rule out a second-round pick. It’s less likely. We have the roster spots open.”
Elias on the minors: Major League Baseball has yet to release its restructuring plan on the minor leagues. MLB is planning to reduce the number of affiliated minor league clubs to four, so the Orioles will lose one full-season affiliate. However, they could gain another short-season team.
Currently, the Orioles run a team at their Sarasota, Florida complex that plays in the Gulf Coast League. Some other teams have two Rookie League teams, and it’s possible the Orioles could become another.
“I think we probably would,” Elias said. “We’re going to drop an affiliate. To help alleviate the transition for that, even if it ends up just being in the short term, I think that will be helpful.
“We’ve got a spectacular facility. We’ve got the space for that, and we’ve got the staffing for that right now. It’s really not that big of a deal even if both of those teams end up with smaller than normal rosters. It’s really not that much extra to say, ‘we’ve got two GCL teams.’ I expect that would be the plan this year, and it sounds as though the dust is finally going to settle on this soon, which I think will be good for everybody.
“There’s been a lot of hard work that’s gone into this. Major League Baseball has spent a lot of time. There’ve been so many stakeholders involved. It hasn’t been easy. No big changes are. I think the news will come out soon, and we’ll all recognize that we’re in a good spot for developing our players.
“It’s really important for us, for the Orioles. We’ve got one of the top farm systems in baseball. We’re a franchise that’s going to be extra reliant on scouting and player development. We’ve got a really cool setup with all these teams across Maryland and Virginia that are within Birdland, in arms reach of Camden Yards. We’re not looking to lose that. We like having that footprint. It’s served us well, and I think it will continue to serve us well.”
Coaching update: The Orioles haven’t decided on a third base coach to replace José Flores. Elias said that the team will be adding a coach, and he’s working on it during the Winter Meetings. He hopes the hire will be made before the holiday break.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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