Right-hander Alex Cobb agreed to a deal with the Baltimore Orioles, who fortified their rotation with one of the most sought-after starting pitchers on the free-agent market, a source familiar with the deal told Yahoo Sports.
The 30-year-old Cobb, ranked eighth in Yahoo Sports’ Ultimate Free Agent Tracker, returned from Tommy John surgery in 2016, followed with a solid 2017 season and inspired enough confidence for the Orioles to guarantee him $57 million over four years.
It’s a bet that Cobb can return to his pre-surgery self, when his tumbling changeup was one of the best in the game and his ability to dot a fastball on either side of the plate made him the latest in a long line of quality starters pumped out by Tampa Bay’s pitching pipeline. It’s also perhaps an acknowledgment that starters need no longer be 200-inning horses to get paid among the best in the game.
Never has Cobb even cracked the 180-inning mark. His 179 1/3 innings last season were a career high, as were his 29 starts. While Cobb’s command was sharp, his strikeout rate tumbled from his pre-surgery number to 6.4 per nine. With a 2017 groundball rate of 48 percent – and a career rate of 54 percent – Cobb’s ability to induce easy outs was indeed alluring for the Orioles.
While his market didn’t exactly stagnate, teams privately balked about concerns that he had thrown his changeup far less in 2017 than previous years and relied more on his curveball than ever. He was still considered the best of the second-tier starters, ahead of Lance Lynn and behind Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.
Because the Rays extended Cobb a qualifying offer and he signed for more than $50 million, they will receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Report: Bills player arrested after naked, bloody altercation
• Wichita State coach releases prized recruit in classy move
• Charles Robinson: Why are Cowboys doing nothing in free agency?
• Cavs’ Korver to take time off after death of brother