The Baltimore Orioles need a healthy Alex Cobb in 2020.
Baltimore Orioles pitchers and catchers officially report to Sarasota for spring training on Tuesday, with first workouts taking place on Wednesday. A long list of pitchers are expected to be in camp to compete for a number of rotation and bullpen spots, from recent Rule 5 picks to veteran free agent additions to vets who were already in the system looking to make the most of what is likely to be their final opportunity with the Orioles.
One of those pitchers with a lot of eyes on him this spring is RHP Alex Cobb. The Orioles desperately need Cobb to be healthy in 2020 to help stabilize a stating rotation expected to be in a constant state of flux this season.
Named the 2019 Opening Day starter, Cobb was unable to take the field at Yankee Stadium due to a groin injury. He would later be shut down for the year after undergoing hip surgery and cleaning up some issues with his knees.
Cobb made three starts, giving up 15 earned runs on 21 hits and posting a final stat line of 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and a .362 average against.
Now entering year three of a four-year deal worth $57 million, Cobb is 5-17 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 31 total starts, with multiple injuries causing him to spend more time on the disabled list than on the pitching mound.
Before last season, I believed Alex Cobb was primed for a big season, this after entering 2019 healthy and with a full offseason/spring training (compared to his 2018 journey when he first joined the organization). After missing all of 2015 and most of 2016 recovering from Tommy John, Cobb went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in Tampa Bay, finishing the season worth 2.5 bWAR. A lot of people, myself included, thought we just might see that version of Cobb in 2019.
Unfortunately, we saw quite the opposite. Well, we didn’t see much of anything.
Cobb won’t be able to make up for the last two years and make his $57 million contract worthwhile, but he can still provide value for the Orioles, if he stays healthy.
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At best, Cobb can turn things around the Orioles can ship him off in a deadline deal this season or over the offseason. However, with his recent track record and contract, that seems unlikely.
At this point, Cobb’s best value will come from staying healthy and on the mound in Baltimore. The departure of Dylan Bundy left a big hole in an already weak and inexperienced rotation. Add in the loss of Gabriel Ynoa and Aaron Brooks and the Orioles are looking at having to replace more than 20% of the total innings pitched last season.
A healthy Cobb means a starting rotation of John Means, Asher Wojciechowski, Cobb, and likely some combination of Wade LeBlanc, Brandon Bailey, Kohl Stewart, and Keegan Akin. It also makes it easier to keep the younger prospect arms down in the minors while they continue to develop and avoid what is expected to be a rough year at Camden Yards.
Otherwise, get ready for a lot more of Chandler Shepherd, Tom Eshelman, and Luis Ortiz in 2020. Even in a rebuilding year with the losses expected to pile up, I’d rather not have to sit through those kinds of pitching performances again.
Cobb will have every opportunity to prove himself with the Baltimore Orioles this season. All reports indicate that he’s healthy and ready to go. Now, let’s just hope he stays on the mound.