It’s almost mid-March and Alex Cobb still needs a contract. The Milwaukee Brewers still need a starting pitcher. Why haven’t the two sides come together for a contract yet?
It appeared as if Alex Cobb was a lock to join the Chicago Cubs this off-season. The Cubs signed Cobb’s former pitching coach, Jim Hickey, and looked desperate for starting pitching. Jake Arrieta was, and still is a free agent. John Lackey may or may not be retired. Cobb to Chicago looked like a lock.
There are less than three weeks left in Spring Training, and Cobb is still without a contract. The Milwaukee Brewers rotation looks thinner now than it did when pitchers and catchers reported. Why haven’t they made a move for Cobb by now?
What are Cobb’s current demands?
Early in the off-season, it was reported that Cobb wanted a four or five-year deal worth $20 million per year. Spring Training is less than three weeks from ending, and Cobb still lacks a contract. It’s now believed that Cobb would ‘settle’ for a three or four-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million per year.
Why would the Brewers stay away from that?
Well, Cobb just turned 30 and he’s coming off a season that saw him post a 3.66 actual ERA with a 4.24 xFIP. His K/9 was only 6.42, and, while his velocity rebounded, it’s still not where it was.
Cobb did post a 2.4 WAR in 2017, but the peripherals were so underwhelming that there’s not much upside to a ‘younger’ free agent starter. Cobb looks like a more expensive, more injured version of Matt Garza before he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. Garza’s performance and contract actually set the team back. Why would they possibly want to go through that again?
Digging into the numbers, Cobb isn’t a great fit for Miller Park. His 36.9% hard contact rate and 30.2% fly ball rate in 2017 were both career highs.
As a ‘small market club’, the Milwaukee Brewers need to exercise caution when they spend. If it’s not a move that gets them closer to a championship, or offers a cost-effective solution, they can’t make it. Cobb is an upgrade over their current ‘four-headed fifth starter monster’, but he’s not cost-effective. The Brewers are better off waiting for a true ace to hit the market and then pouncing. Paying a premium for mediocre free agents isn’t how the Brewers will sustain success. Unless Cobb is willing to accept a one-year pillow contract, he’s a stay away.