Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Zach Britton, 2016 Topps Archives #137
That's right. A week after I groused on this blog about the Birds' apparent plan to play musical chairs with their fifth slot in the starting rotation, the team was sufficiently unimpressed by the prospects of Mike Wright Jr., Nestor Cortes, Gabriel Ynoa, and Miguel Castro that they promised four years and $57 million to Cobb. Somehow, some way, one of the best free agent pitchers on the market stayed unsigned until mid-March, and it was the O's who landed him.
In Alex Cobb, Baltimore gets a pitcher who lost all of 2015 and most of 2016 to Tommy John surgery. Post-surgery, he's struggled to use his split-finger changeup effectively, which had been his best pitch prior to injury. That helps explain his career-low 6.42 K/9 IP last year, and his dip to a 3.66 ERA (113 ERA+). Nevertheless, he also walked a career-low 2.2 batters per nine innings last year, and you probably don't need me to tell you that his BB/9 and ERA were better than any of the O's starters in 2017. The better news: if Cobb regains the feel for his split change, these were his combined numbers in 49 starts in 2013 and 2014: 21-12, 2.82 ERA (134 ERA+), 8.2 K/9 IP. As someone who's spent his whole career with the Rays, he's even used to pitching in the pressure cooker of the American League East. You can scale his performance down a bit with the switch from Tropicana Field to Camden Yards as his home ballpark, but the rotation will still look a hell of a lot better with him than without.
Welcome to Birdland, Alex. Thanks for making our starting pitching exponentially less terrible.