After watching a variety of quality free agents settle for shorter and less-lucrative contracts than expected — including established veteran starter Lance Lynn — it seemed that right-hander Alex Cobb would likewise need to take what he could get and plan to return to the open market in the near future in search of a heftier pact. Instead, he struck a surprising four-year, $57MM deal yesterday with the Orioles.
Of course, that contract wouldn’t have seemed out of line when the offseason got underway. MLBTR tabbed Cobb the 11th-best free agent available and predicted he’d secure a four-year contract with a $48MM guarantee — not far off from where he ultimately landed. But we also guessed four and $56MM for Lynn, who got just $12MM from the Twins despite signing a few weeks before Cobb and carrying a broadly similar overall profile in terms of age and track record. And when we reexamined the market before Lynn’s signing, we downgraded expectations for both hurlers.
Needless to say, this winter’s market has been something of a moving target. At the end of the day, though, Cobb will land a sizable but generally market-rate deal with an organization that came into the winter as perhaps the most pitching-needy would-be contender in baseball. If the deal is finalized, Cobb will join Andrew Cashner and the re-signed Chris Tillman as free-agent additions to a staff that already featured Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
There are still questions up and down that five-man crew, but the overall talent base on the pitching staff is quite a bit higher now than at the outset of the offseason. One can argue that the O’s ought not to have made a commitment of this magnitude entering the organization’s final season of control over Manny Machado and Adam Jones. On the other hand, it’s hard to condemn a club for spending to win, especially when so many others are focusing on the future. And while the Cobb contract hardly seems a bargain, it’s roughly in range of his market value and arguably delivers some upside given Cobb’s history as a top-of-the-rotation presence. He was, after all, one of the most effective starters in the AL East in 2013-14 and delivered 179 1/3 innings of 3.66 ERA pitching in 2017.
How would you grade the move from the team’s perspective? (Link for app users.)