Cobb's disappointing time with the Orioles nears its end - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Cobb’s disappointing time with the Orioles nears its end

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Three years ago, the Orioles were desperate to make another run. Executive vice-president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter were in the last year of their long-term deals.

Several of their key players, reliever Zack Britton, centerfielder Adam Jones and shortstop Manny Machado, were in the final year before free agency.

The Orioles had already signed another starting pitcher, right-hander Andrew Cashner, early in spring training, adding him to right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman in the starting rotation.

Late in spring training, the Orioles signed Alex Cobb to a four-year, $57 million contract. On Monday, it was reported that Cobb will be traded to the Los Angeles Angels, his time here never coming close to the expectations.

However, at the time of his signing, it looked like a masterstroke. Cobb was arguably the best free-agent pitcher the Orioles could lure to Baltimore, and his market had dropped.

The size of the contract was large, the biggest one the team had handed out to a free- agent pitcher, eclipsing the four-year, $50 million deal for Ubaldo Jimenez that expired the previous fall.

Cobb was two years removed from Tommy John surgery and had a solid 2017 with the Tampa Bay Rays. His 12-10 record and 3.66 ERA for the Rays looked impressive. If he could duplicate that, the Orioles would have been happy.

Unfortunately, Cobb never came close to matching that.

When the trade of Cobb, which was first reported by The Athletic, becomes official, Cobb will head to the Angels for second baseman Jahmai Jones.

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Cobb will try to make something positive happen in the final year of his contract, and the Orioles will pay heavily to get out of that deal.

The Orioles, who collapsed in 2018, ending with a franchise-worst record of 47-115, traded not only Britton and Machado in July, but also made deals that included Gausman, relievers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day and second baseman Jonathan Schoop. They wanted to deal Jones, too, but he invoked his no-trade clause and played out the season in Baltimore before leaving for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Duquette and Showalter were let go at the end of the season, and Mike Elias was hired in November 2018.

Cobb’s name was thrown around in trade talks shortly after Elias’ arrival, but there was too much money left on that contract, and Cobb had underperformed in that first season.

Because Cobb didn’t sign until March 21st, he got a late start on the season. In his first three starts, he allowed 17 earned runs on 30 hits in 11 2/3 innings for a 13.11 ERA.

Even though Cobb’s stat line improved, the team didn’t, and he hardly pitched in September, finishing with a 5-15 record and 4.90 ERA.

Cobb had a string of solid starts in July and August but persistent blisters ended his season early, and he was hardly a hot commodity on the trade market.

In 2019, he was limited to three starts because of hip and knee surgeries. Last season, he pitched well at the end of the season. In his last two starts, Cobb gave up three runs on 10 hits in 13 innings, restoring some trade value. He finished 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA,

In his three seasons with the Orioles, he was 7-22 with a 5.10 ERA.

Cobb is a class act and was always willing to talk about pitching. It’s a shame that his time in Baltimore won’t be remembered fondly. As one of the few veterans remaining on the team, he took on a leadership role when the August 27th game at Tampa Bay was postponed as part of the Black Lives Matter protests.

His brother, R.J., was awarded the Purple Heart because of his heroic actions in the Iraq war, and is now a police officer. Alex has always supported police officers and made unpublicized humanitarian trips to impoverished areas. Cobb was eager to support the police and his Black Oriole teammates in the protest.

Without Cobb, the Orioles will need veterans to augment the young rotation he’ll leave behind. Left-hander John Means will be the staff leader, and rookie left-hander Keegan Akin and another first-year guy, right-hander Dean Kremer, will need veteran help.

Elias has been hunting for a veteran starter or two, perhaps on minor league contracts, and maybe a major league deal now that Cobb is gone.

Jones will be the first player with major league experience Elias has acquired in a trade. In his deals for major league players, Bundy, Cashner, pitchers Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens, Tommy Milone and Hector Velázquez and infielders José Iglesias and Jonathan Villar, Elias’ net was 18 players. All lacked major league experience.

Jones has just seven major league at-bats, but Elias said after the signing of shortstop Freddy Galvis that he was still looking for another utility player.

Jones has experience in the outfield in the minors and will compete for a spot on the club against several other utility players. He’s never played shortstop or third base in the minor leagues.

Jones, who was the Angels’ second-round pick in 2015, is the seventh highest-rated prospect in MLB Pipeline and will be the seventh player acquired by the Orioles from Los Angeles in the past 14 months.

In December 2019, the Orioles acquired right-handers Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich, Isaac Mattson and Zach Peek in exchange for Bundy. In December 2020, right-handers Jean Pinto and Garrett Stallings were traded for Iglesias.

Note: First baseman/outfielder Chris Shaw cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He was designated for assignment when the Orioles signed shortstop Freddy Galvis as a free agent last Wednesday.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. TxBirdFan

    February 2, 2021 at 7:17 am

    Our most accomplished pitcher traded for a utility player. This just doesn’t feel right – again. Hard to imagine we’ll find someone better than Cobb to anchor the rotation. Now if the O’s could turn Chris Davis into a pitcher….

    • CGarcia

      February 2, 2021 at 6:35 pm

      What did you expect to get for an aging and often injured 5th starter? Overall, the media, most fans and mlb experts applauded the trade – it cuts payroll and we get a 23 year old player with upside.

  2. Orial

    February 2, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Yes it was a disappointing tenure for Cobb in Baltimore. Long term deals and the O’s don’t seem to work out. That being said yes the immediate concern is who beside Means will give veteran leadership,innings now? Lopez?–I don’t think so. What’s out there?–Colin McHugh,Rick Porcello(too ecpensive). Will they go $2 million to get one? Don’t think so. Unless the young core steps up the staff (again) could be taking a step back.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      February 2, 2021 at 8:36 am

      There are 154 guys that played in MLB last year that remain unsigned. There are plenty of arms out there that the O’s can get to fill the rotation.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        February 2, 2021 at 8:56 am

        However … out of those 154, how many are willing to work for minimum wage?

        • willmiranda

          February 2, 2021 at 9:48 am

          Hey, Boog, minimum wage is going up to $15/hr. O’s may balk at that. And with no fans at games, they can’t claim tips will cover the gap. (Yes, I am imagining that the O’s next financial move will be to ask the fans to tip the players.)

        • jimcarter

          February 2, 2021 at 9:58 am

          ….and had an ERA under 5….

          • Tony Paparella

            February 2, 2021 at 11:02 am

            Cobb was a great pickup when they got him but injuries have done him in and with one year left on another ‘who knows what’ season this was an excellent move. Getting rid of 7.5 million bucks and getting another player is not a bad deal. I realize this guy is just another hopeful with little experience and little production but like the rest of them you never know. Now that little bottom closing note about Chris Shaw may go unnoticed but I am thinking this guy could develope into a power bat at some point. Anyway he has as much a chance as a lot of the other prospects,so I am glad to hear he is sticking in the organization.

  3. mmcmillan1123

    February 2, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Surely there will be at least one pitcher out there that nobody else wants to sign.
    No worries!

  4. willmiranda

    February 2, 2021 at 10:09 am

    Thanks, Rich, for the fair summation of Cobb’s stay here. As for the trade, I don’t see it making much of a difference in my lifetime. I know people like to talk about all these prospect rankings, but some stats about a player who’s put in several years in the minors might be useful. I notice with Jones that his lifetime BA is about .260 with 35 home runs in about 1900 ABs, not bad for a plus fielding second baseman but not much for an outfielder. He also has about 400 strike outs against 200 walks. I know these are old-fashioned stats, but they don’t indicate a budding superstar, whatever his prospect ranking. Lastly, it looks like the Angels don’t need much of a minor league system when they have the O’s to send them players.

    • dlgruber1

      February 2, 2021 at 11:16 am

      I’m beginning to believe the Angels look at Baltimore as their minor league team. I wonder if they call them the AngelO’s?

      • Phil770

        February 2, 2021 at 2:06 pm

        The Angels have three players (Trout, Pujols and Rendon) who will be paid $100M this year. They have to make a move now. I can get past the fact that Cobb has not won a game in Camden Yards It makes him expendable. Perhaps with the $7M saved, there could be one, maybe even two pitchers that could be signed and fill the void of leadership. As with Iglesias, I would rather not trade Cobb, especially for what appears to be less value in return. It is possible that the whole deal hasn’t leaked and that one or more prospects would come with Jones. There were deals that Dan D. made that I didn’t like, thought they were short-sighted and wishful thinking. We’ll just have to see how this one turns out.

  5. CalsPals

    February 2, 2021 at 11:18 am

    Chris Shaw, 27, career .153, another OF/1B, WTF…go O’s…

  6. Bhoffman1

    February 2, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    I’m happy about the Cobb trade. He’s not a winner in my book and gets injured easily. He doesn’t add to this forever rebuild. As for Davis if we paid 90 per cent of his contract no one would take him. If he’s waived no one will take him so look for him to rot on this team another year. We’ve out small marketed Tampa Bay. Soon we will have the lowest budget in baseball. If not already

  7. millboy

    February 2, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    You can’t miss someone who hardly ever pitched because of injuries. Why would this year be any better…Also relax…this is only year 3 of the rebuild, have to build a strong base of minor leaguers which takes time when you’re as depleted as our system was

  8. WorldlyView

    February 2, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    Could someone please explain to me why it’s allegedly an either/or situation–either go for a long-term blossoming of the farm system OR field at least a “reasonably” competitive team now. Those who advocate unquestioning patience with the great rebuild seem to think that cutting costs to the bare bones is absolutely necessary to amass a cohort of prospects who may or may not become MLB stalwarts. To me, it is obvious that ownership’s (or Elias’s) priority is on cutting the payroll to historic lows (when CD’s salary is excluded) even if it means chasing 120-plus losses for the next couple of seasons. Also, would someone please explain to me why it is allegedly an either/or situation regarding signing free agents–either bottom feed for the lowest cost (and presumably lowest talented) players OR shell out enormous amounts of money in long-term contracts for stars who may or may not be past their peak. Again, there is a more logical middle ground. Finally, I would argue that the trade of Cobb is best evaluated in financial terms; it is a logical next step in pursuing “operation cheapskate.” Absent impressive free agent signings and/or miracles, it’s really hard to envision the performance of this year’s pitching staff to be anything but embarrassing. I’ll leave it to the congenital optimists to argue that a bargain sub-basement roster in the short-term is the inescapable cost of hopefully becoming contenders in 2025.

    • ClayDal

      February 2, 2021 at 5:20 pm

      They are following the Astros plan. Keep the payroll low, lose a lot of games, develop the farm system. Save the money until it does you any good. If the Orioles spent 20 million or so on free agents, how many games would they win? 70 or so? Do that 3 years in a row and you’ve wasted 60 million dollars. The Astros saved a lot of money by being cheap. When they were ready to contend, they had the money and the prospects to trade for Verlander, Cole , and Grienke. The Angelos’s hired Elias to do that here-minus the trash cans

      • WorldlyView

        February 2, 2021 at 5:45 pm

        CD, I wish I shared your optimism that the owners will open their wallets if and when the O’s become AL East contenders via the farm system. But I wonder how much revenue will be lost from declining ticket sales in the next few years if our team is as non-competitive as I see it being. Could be a lot more than your hypothetical $20 million annually for mid-grade free agents. Hope you prove more prescient than I.

    • ClayDal

      February 2, 2021 at 6:27 pm

      When the Orioles started winning again in 2012 attendance and revenue did increase. As did the payroll. Look until the pandemic is defeated and things can revert to somewhat normal, we won’t know how much future revenues are affected. Combine that with John and Lou Angelos running the team and the ongoing MASN dispute, who knows. But let’s pretend for a second there was no pandemic and things were normal. You spend the extra 20 or so million and instead of 100 losses, maybe 90. Does that increase attendance? TV ratings? Probably not enough to offset the cost. Mediocrity won’t bring the fans back, success will

      • Bancells Moustache

        February 2, 2021 at 7:01 pm

        Payroll increased, but they still bargain hunted. It was blind luck that Nelson Cruz was signed for peanuts, he being radioactive at the one due to a PED suspension. And when it came time to shore up the pitching, the Orioles took the half measure of signing a guy who wasn’t that good and was thus not as expensive as a real difference maker. They did this twice with Jiménez and Cobb, both of whom promptly detonated in their face.

    • ClayDal

      February 2, 2021 at 7:15 pm

      The Orioles payroll in 2017 was an estimated 164 million-8th in the league. Some of the free agent signings didn’t work out-but that happens with every team. Jimenez was inconsistent in Colorado and Cleveland, but did finish 2nd in the Cy Young voting pitching at Coors Field. Cobb just couldn’t stay healthy. Hardy, Trumbo and O’Day got nice extensions but kept getting hurt. No comment on Davis. They spent money. In some cases unwisely and other cases bad luck. The purpose of keeping payroll down now is to give them flexibility when they need it. Not a question of “wanting to win”. They don’t have the core talent yet to compete in the AL East. Signing a couple mid-level free agents won’t change that. They tried that from 1998-2011. Didn’t work

    • dlgruber1

      February 2, 2021 at 10:38 pm

      Honestly, I’d hate to be Elias now, or any GM for that matter. I’m convinced we’ll never see true long term dynasties any longer. By long term I’m talking 5 years max. No team, not even the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, whoever, will be able to keep a core group of players together more than 3-4 seasons. Springer just said goodbye to a terrific team, which has one WS win (albeit possibly tainted) and another appearance to go to Toronto. The Yanks and Dodgers won’t be able to sign all their best young players when they become free agents. It’s just the financial reality of MLB now. Teams like Baltimore must draft better than others and hope they become great players for a few years and maybe, just maybe, if they catch lightning in a bottle they’ll play in a WS, 2 if they’re incredibly lucky and have no major injuries. And let’s face it, that’s what MLB wants.

  9. Shamus

    February 2, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Do you really think Cobb worked out well here ?Do you really think he was in the future plans? I wish they could have thrown in Davis too.

  10. Bancells Moustache

    February 2, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    He had to go. Cobb was one of of the twin, aging towers of past futility still marring the Orioles. The other one, you know who, remains in place. So long as the two of them remain in the orange and black, any talk of a rebuild was laughable. Alex Cobb was a disaster who is one Edwin Encarnación playoff walkoff away from being rightfully regarded as the worst free agent pitcher in franchise history. Anyone who thinks he would’ve caught fire and they could have flipped him at the deadline for a package must’ve been asleep for his entire Oriole career. Goodbye, and good riddance.

  11. Raymo

    February 3, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    DLGruber, your “Angel’Os” remark was hilarious and brilliant. Thanks for that!

  12. Sonnyecho

    February 5, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Of coarse it was disappointing he was washed up far before the time he spent in Bmore.

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