20 March 2018

The Orioles, Who Weren't Done, Sign Alex Cobb

During this offseason, there have been plenty of questions about the Orioles. What are they doing? is one, along with several others that have been asked repeatedly the last few weeks and months about the direction of the club. I touched on some of them in a post last week:
As with most things O's related, there are more questions than answers. Why isn't there more payroll room? Are the O's really doing all they can to win now? How can they rely on Mike Wright or a Rule 5 pick and say they're trying to win? How does adding Andrew Cashner, Tillman, and Colby Rasmus qualify as reloading?
Well, the O's indeed were not finished, and they've apparently swooped in and signed the most notable free agent starting pitcher remaining, Alex Cobb. According to Jon Heyman, the O's deal with Cobb is, surprisingly, for four years and close to $60 million. (Pending a physical, of course. Always pending a physical.) It was reported all offseason that the O's weren't comfortable going to four years again with a starting pitcher, and yet, here we are.

Before this move, the O's were about $30 million under last season's payroll. Now, depending on the structure of Cobb's deal and the deferred money, the O's will be somewhere around $15 million below. It's still a bit confusing that payroll would drop when an obvious cliff is upcoming -- the impending free agency of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Brad Brach -- but clearly it's easier to put up with that when the rotation now includes Cobb to go along with Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman.

Now, it's tough to square Cobb's contract with the one signed by Lance Lynn. Lynn, who's a similar talent to Cobb and has been linked to him all offseason, signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Twins last week. That's a pretty significant discount for someone of Lynn's talent level, and for someone who also costs his new team a draft pick since they both rejected qualifying offers from their previous teams.

The O's are most likely overpaying for Cobb. He doesn't come without his risks, and as the O's just learned with Ubaldo Jimenez, four-year deals for starters can go south in a hurry. But how often have you heard that the O's need to spend more than the opposition to bring a starting pitcher to Baltimore? How much better does the rotation look when you have Cashner/Tillman in the 4/5 spots instead of Tillman and one of Nestor Cortes/Miguel Castro/Mike Wright? Those things matter.

The Cobb signing makes the Orioles better, even if his PECOTA projection is worrisome. All along, the hope was that if the O's weren't going to commit to a full rebuild, that they'd take this offseason seriously and add some talent to a roster that needed it. Maybe none of the previous moves thrilled you, but together, adding Cobb, Cashner, Tillman, and Rasmus et al. looks decent once we finally got to this point.

Is this all the O's could cobble together to win now? Even the most optimistic fan would have a hard time selling that. But it's easier to defend the position that the O's are trying to win in 2018. Sometimes the bar is just that low.


Anonymous said...

YES! Finally. I know everyone has their reservations about Cobb and maybe what I remember is the pre-TJ Cobb, but he was once considered to be the next top-of-the-rotation starter in TB maybe better than Archer. Watching him pitch against the O's, he always looked like a world beater. I have always thought that Lynn's results were a mirage, kind of like what we've been saying about Tillman when he was good. There is no comparison between Cobb and Ubaldo. Ubaldo was a bum who occasionally looked like a star - everyone knew it from the beginning. Cobb is the real deal. Not only that but Cashner is quite a bit better than Gallardo ever had a chance to be too.

Overall, the O's are pretty much coming in line to what we all thought they needed to do to be competitive and they did it for cheaper than what we predicted even after overpaying for Cobb. Rasmus is better than Dyson/Jay (he is a capable fielder who can handle CF and his hitting profile is better) and cheaper especially if we get the "good" Colby and he is LH.

I think FG underestimates the O's especially Rasmus, Mancini, Cashner, and, hopefully Davis/Trumbo. Any or all of those guys could put up 2 WAR. Getting Britton back will be like adding a star reliever in a deadline trade. This season's gonna be fun now.

Pip said...

It seems the Orioles bid against themselves again. Why did Cobb get nearly his original projection while everyone else was signing for huge discounts?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

We don't know right now what other offers Cobb had on the table.

The quick answer to your question is: Because the Orioles wanted him.

Anonymous said...

I think there may be something to the meme that the Orioles seem to have to pay more - maybe especially to pitchers - to get them to come to Baltimore. Maybe it's they way the whole Ubaldo, Balfour, Gallardo deals went down or maybe it's the thought of having to pitch most of your games at AL East parks (especially OPACY) against AL East teams or that the O's have less chance of winning in such a division or that the O's don't seem to be a winning team or that the O's don't do opt out clauses. Maybe Cobb wasn't as concerned about the AL East part but he may have used it to extract a few extra bucks.

Also, people can talk about NPV but it's still ultimately more money overall for Cobb and less payroll invested in the current term for the O's. And Cobb can get paid all that deferred money while he's collecting salary from some other team in the future. Even if the NPV is exactly what was predicted for Cobb, Cobb thinks he's making more at $57M and the O's think they're paying less at $37M. The O's seem to play in a whole different universe from everyone else.

Pip said...

That is also the obvious answer, but it certainly does seem odd that everybody else is signing for peanuts and Cobb got more than his projection.
I'm not going to care if he does well. It would be very interesting to compare The Tampa defense with the oriole defense to get an idea of how much a new defense will help or hinder him.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

It surprised me, that's for sure. Still, I think the Lynn deal may be the real outlier, not Cobb's deal. Lynn settling for one year was shocking.

The Cobb deal having somewhere between $20-$25 million in deferred money helps.

Unknown said...

I think Lynn wanted the one year deal. He's betting on himself. We're talking about a guy who has not yet turned 31 and who, in spite of losing a season to Tommy John surgery, has 5 seasons in the past 6 years with 175+ innings pitched, 150+ strikeouts, and a sub-4 ERA. His peripherals were obviously down in 2017 and that's why he wasn't getting the money he felt he deserved, but if he pitches solidly again in 2018 he'll look a lot more like a guy who's market value falls in line with those stats. He's banking that if he pitches decently in 2018 he'll be in line for a $100+ million contract, and he's probably right. Why take more years at a reduced AAV when he thinks he can take 1 and then get a much bigger deal next year?

I would have looked for a 2-year deal if I were him. He didn't look 100% last year and I think he may be in for a down 2018, but I like his makeup and I still like his pitch arsenal. In his last few starts his fastball velocity looked a lot more like it had in previous years, and his secondary pitches were already on track, so I think indications are that his arm is ok. Long-term I like the guy. Moreso than Cobb. But I'm not sure he's 100% back on track mechanically just yet.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yes, that is probably true. It's interesting when players bet on themselves like that. But he'd have to have some kind of monster year to be in line for a $100 million contract in 2019. I guess anything is possible, though.