The 2017-2018 offseason is here for the Minnesota Twins. Who could be Twins be targeting in the free agent market?
Now that the Minnesota Twins have entered the offseason, they are looking to improve the roster through trades and through free agent signings. In this series, we’re going to examine individual players that the Minnesota Twins could have interest in this offseason through free agency.
We will not have any specific order to which player we highlight in this series, but we will look at each player’s past history, why he would be a good fit for the Minnesota Twins, and, last, the sort of contract likely to be required to sign the player.
We will continue the series with another one of the top starters on the market…
Alex Cobb, RHP
Originally born in Boston, Cobb graduated from high school in Vero Beach, Florida, where he was drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft.
Cobb went about a slow, steady rise through the system that is very common of a Rays pitching prospects, moving up one level per season until he dominated AAA such that he forced the Rays’ hands in 2011. He never really was elite at any minor league level, but interestingly, he seemed to improve at every level, with his ERA actually lowering every level. His 2011 with Durham, he made 12 starts with a minute 1.87 ERA before moving up to the Rays, where he put up a 3.42 ERA over 9 starts.
Each season, Cobb has struggled to put together a full season of starts for one reason or another. In 2013, he was struck by a line drive off of the bat of fellow current free agent Eric Hosmer in the head, and the resulting concussion led to time missed in 2014 before he ended up going down with elbow issues early in 2015 and needing Tommy John surgery in May of 2015.
Cobb returned to the mound in 2016, but he’s decidedly not the same pitcher, changing his approach significantly. He threw a full season in 2017, but even then, he did not make 30 starts, collecting 29 starts, with 179 1/3 innings with a 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a 44/128 BB/K ratio.
Cobb works with a four pitch mix, with a sinker that runs at a 92 MPH average, a split-finger vulcan-grip “fast change” that has an 86 MPH average velocity, a high-spin curve that works like a vertical slider for him, and then a four-seam fastball that Cobb can spot up in the zone.
The sinker and curve are his primary pitches, though he has seen hitters struggle to get quality barrel on the split change. However, the lack of movement on his four-seam fastball that he used to get has led to more of a predictable nature to his repertoire, and he’s seen his hard hit rate severely spike to nearly 37% in 2017.
How he would fit?
Cobb, like Lynn and Arrieta that have been profiled already, was offered a qualifying offer and rejected it. That means if the Minnesota Twins do sign him, they will forfeit their #75 overall selection as well as the funds required to sign him.
Cobb is probably the one of the top 4 starters that is most divisive in this season’s market. Knowing for sure what he will be is a difficult endeavor. He is a guy who constantly tinkers with his pitches, and he’s not yet ever made 30 starts nor thrown 180 innings in a season.
To me, that puts Cobb as a clear 4th in the top 4 of the free agent starting pitcher class in 2017-2018, though his talent level puts him above the next starter on the list by a decent amount.
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Because there is that distance between Cobb and the 5th starter on the market, he’s going to be able to push his value near where Lynn is at on the market. He could see in the $15 million per season range if he was willing to take 3 years or less, but he most likely will want to ensure the guaranteed 4th year with his previous injury history.
MLB Trade Rumors projected Cobb to receive a 4-year, $48 million contract. At $12 million per season, Cobb is at a fair range on the free agent market, though if I were the Twins, I’d be shooting to attempt to get him for more in the range of 4 years, $40 million with achievable incentives that could far surpass the base contracts others offer.
That way, the Twins are not loaded down with a burdensome contract if Cobb cannot pitch at all, yet if he’s throwing well enough to earn those incentives, the team will be more than happy to pay whatever he earns in incentives, even surpassing the money guys like Lynn or Arrieta are earning if he is throwing that well.
Should the Twins do it?
Cobb at the price mentioned would be a worthy investment. In fact, if they could make it work, if Darvish says no, pursuing both Cobb AND Lance Lynn for the same combined annual money could give them two consistent starting spots instead of one.