Alex Cobb made his final start of the season this afternoon, allowing five runs over as many innings in a loss to the Rangers. It’s possible that was his last outing in a Los Angeles uniform, as Cobb is slated to hit free agency this winter. After the outing, the right-hander expressed a desire to stick around in Anaheim beyond this year though.
Cobb told reporters (including Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times) that while there’s not yet been any talk between the club and his representatives at Beverley Hills Sports Council, he believes both sides are amenable to extending their relationship. “We both have the understanding that there’s mutual respect there and mutual desire to reunite next year,” Cobb said. “We haven’t had those talks yet, but it’s obviously something I’d be really happy to do.”
Mutual interest in a reunion doesn’t guarantee anything will get done, of course, but it’s nonetheless the first step in any potential extension. It’s not particularly surprising the Angels would like to keep Cobb in the fold, as he posted a quietly strong first season in Anaheim (today’s start notwithstanding).
The Angels drew some criticism last offseason when they traded one-time top prospect Jahmai Jones to land Cobb from the Orioles. General manager Perry Minasian and his staff were rewarded for their faith in the veteran hurler, as he worked to a 3.76 ERA across 93 1/3 innings this season. A pair of injured list stints (one because of a blister, the other due to wrist inflammation) limited Cobb to nineteen starts, but he posted generally strong results when healthy.
Cobb backed up his sub-4.00 ERA with quality peripherals. He punched out a career-best 24.9% of opponents while handing out free passes at only an 8.4% rate. Always one of the game’s better pitchers at keeping the ball on the ground, he racked up grounders at a 53.8% clip that’s more than ten percentage points above the league average. Cobb’s 3.78 SIERA (prior to today’s start) lands right in line with his actual run prevention figure.
Soon to turn 34 years old, Cobb looks to have a real case to land a multi-year deal this winter. That didn’t seem particularly likely just a few months ago, as the first three years of his free agent contract with the Orioles didn’t go well. Between 2018-20, he tossed 217 innings of 5.10 ERA/5.22 FIP ball in Baltimore. Cobb candidly acknowledged when speaking with reporters today he’d once feared those struggles could soon limit his chances to continue playing, but he’s flipped that script with a strong showing in Anaheim.
Potential suitors — the Angels included — will have to determine precisely how much to buy into Cobb’s renewed success. His repertoire wasn’t much different than it had been in recent seasons. Cobb continued to lean on his sinker (40%), split (37%) and curveball (16%) while occasionally mixing in a four-seam fastball, as he had in Baltimore. His pitch velocity, spin and movement haven’t changed much. But Cobb has excelled at avoiding the heart of the plate and getting opposing hitters to chase pitches outside the strike zone, leading to a personal-best 11.6% swinging strike rate.
Cobb certainly benefitted from a bit of good fortune in the home run department. Even after coughing up two long balls against Texas today, his season-long HR/9 mark winds up at just 0.48. Teams wouldn’t be able to count on Cobb being quite that successful at keeping the ball in the yard moving forward, but he did execute pitches consistently enough on the whole to put together a quality bounceback season.
As is typically the case, the Angels look likely to target rotation help over the offseason. Shohei Ohtani will continue to star in his two-way role, and Patrick Sandoval earned a spot in next season’s group before suffering a season-ending back injury. José Suarez will likely hold down a spot as well, but Cobb’s departure would still leave at least two spots in the rotation to be addressed. Griffin Canning remains on hand, and top prospect Reid Detmers should get another chance at some point in the year. But injuries and/or underperformance often force teams to lean on seven or eight starters over the course of a season. Adding some veteran certainty to that group, whether Cobb or external upgrades, figures to a top priority for Minasian and his staff yet again.