There hasn’t been a more obvious fit for the Chicago Cubs since, well not that long ago. As soon as Jim Hickey was available, everyone pretty much knew he was going to come to Chicago and reunite with Joe Maddon to be the Cubs pitching coach. Now, as free agency begins another former Tampa Bay Ray is likely coming too, at least according to recent reports.
Yes, it’s right-handed starting pitcher Alex Cobb.
The 30-year-old free agent has already discussed his interest in signing with the Cubs and according to ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers the calls to Cobb from the Cubs have already started.
Meanwhile, the front office is casting a wide net, with Rays righty Alex Cobb in their sights. According to a source familiar with the situation, they reached out to Cobb early in the free-agent process, as he checks a lot of boxes. He’s a couple of years removed from an arm injury, has good stuff, would be making the move from the American League to the pitcher-hitting National League and gets an A+ in terms of fitting into the Cubs’ clubhouse. Don’t dismiss that last notion. The Cubs are very mindful of whom they let into their club — especially on a multiyear, big-money deal.
Cobb has a 3.50 ERA in 115 career starts. He set personal highs in 2017, starting 29 games and pitching 179.1 innings. The righty missed all of 2015 because of Tommy John Surgery and came back to start five games in 2016. The concern is how will Cobb perform when more is asked of him, or will he be able to sustain his success deep in seasons. Again, the 179.1 innings is a career high. He’s never been that close to 200 innings.
That being said, it’s becoming evident that Cobb and the Cubs are destined to come to an agreement. Here’s what the pitcher recently said on potentially becoming a part of the Cubs starting rotation.
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 10, 2017
“I don’t hide the fact that I have the most respect for Joe Maddon and what he did for me coming up as a player, and not so much as a pitcher on the mound, but as a professional athlete and a professional baseball player,” Cobb said. “It had to do with the mental side of the game and how to deal with the stresses that come with a big league lifestyle. There’s nobody better in the game to control and to deal with people as he is.”
“You make a ranking system of what’s most important to you and your family,” Cobb said. “No. 1, first and foremost, is that we’re going to a place that we feel is going to be winners for the length of the contract. I’ve been through losing and winning seasons. The amount of joy that winning brings can’t be replaced by a dollar figure. That’s our No. 1 decision-based reasoning.”
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Cobb said of Hickey. “He’s not only a good pitching coach, but a real close friend of mine.”
Now, the question is for how much? Cobb said the decision to sign somewhere was going to impact the next five years of his life, so obviously he’s looking for a five-year contract. FanGraphs has his projected contract at four years for $60 million, an average of $15 per year. It makes more sense for the Cubs to sign Cobb at those figures than spend more than $100 million on a guy like Yu Darvish, or even Jake Arrieta, depending what his market becomes.
If the Cubs do sign Cobb, they’ll lose their second highest draft pick in 2018 and $500,000 in IFA pool space. Cobb has until Thursday to decline Tampa Bay’s qualifying offer.
So, get ready for the Cobb puns because it really does seem like the Cubs are targeting him and Hickey gave him his full endorsement.
“I would trust the arm 100 percent, especially because he did miss the time that he missed,” Hickey said. “The usage is minimal for a 30-year-old type of pitcher. What he did with basically two pitches in the American League East last year was remarkable — incredible, really.”
If Cobb does sign with the Cubs the rotation would be Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Alex Cobb and for now Mike Montgomery. Cobb would actually become the second-highest paid starter, below Lester. Another reminder that the Quintana trade was great not only because he’s a good pitcher, but because he’s making less than $10 million in 2018 and then $21 million total the following two years.
Anyway, Cobb to the Cubs, I think it’s happening.