Thursday, March 15, 2018

Does New York Have Enough Money for Alex Cobb?



The New York Yankees and their General Manager Brian Cashman have done a masterful job this winter, in my opinion, adding the reigning NL MVP in Giancarlo Stanton, bringing back left-handed veteran CC Sabathia, acquiring Brandon Drury to play third base, and signing Neil Walker to play second base all while remaining under the luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season. According to multiple reports the Yankees payroll sit at approximately $182 million after the signing of Walker to a one-year deal worth $4 million, plus incentives, leaving the Yankees just $15 million to play with not only this offseason, but at the July 31st trading deadline as well. With that in mind, do the Yankees have enough money to really “Get Greedy” and sign Alex Cobb?

It is worth mentioning before we get too deep into the financials that the Yankees would have to surrender draft picks if and when they signed Cobb after the right-hander was offered and declined a qualifying offer from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. Honestly, given the state of the Yankees system and their young core currently in Triple-A and at the Major League level I would have zero issue giving up a draft pick for a guy like Cobb, it is when giving up draft picks becomes the norm that the farm system is hurt. The Yankees system is deep enough to sustain the loss of a pick, and the team can also live with losing international free agent draft pool money as well after going over the luxury tax threshold in 2017 as well. Just don’t make it a habit is all I am saying.

With that little roadblock surpassed let’s get down to the financials and see if New York could strike a deal with Cobb. When looking at what a starting pitcher could sign for it is always best to look at what every pitcher around him got this offseason and use that as a guide and a stepping stone in your contract negotiations with said pitcher. Jake Arrieta was probably the top arm coming into this offseason and the right-hander received an Average Annual Value of $25 million on his three-year deal worth $75 million. Cobb is not Arrieta, in fact Cobb probably rates closer to a fellow right-handed veteran that recently signed a deal with the Minnesota Twins, Lance Lynn. Lynn signed with Minnesota for one-year and $12 million. Could Cobb be signed for a similar contract? You can answer that by comparing their stats and seeing whether or not they are similar pitchers.

Cobb has pitched in parts of six seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays posting a career 10.8 WAR, a 48-35 win/loss record, a 1.217 WHIP, and a 3.50 ERA with 570 strikeouts in exactly 700 innings pitched. For a 30-year old arm that has spent much of his career without much run support behind him or what many analysts would call an elite defense behind him, these stats are spectacular in my opinion. Lynn on the other hand has also pitched in parts of six seasons, missing the 2016 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a career 14.1 WAR, a 72-47 win/loss record, a 1.288 WHIP, and a 3.38 ERA with 919 strikeouts in 977.2 innings pitched. Now some will argue the whole American League vs. National League lineup strength and pitching to a pitcher three-or-four times a night when comparing these stats, and I don’t necessarily disagree with you whatsoever, but some may argue that Lynn has actually been better than Cobb has been throughout their Major League careers.

With that said and keeping in mind that the free agent pool and the number of interested teams dwindling by the day I don’t find it out of the realm of possibilities for the New York Yankees to sign Cobb to a deal with an AAV of $10 million, whether that be on a one, two or three-year deal. I wouldn’t go any higher than three years personally, and obviously I would prefer to go no higher than two including option years, but the Yankees seem stuck on giving out just one-year deals to most this offseason. That, again in my opinion, will be the sticking point in any negotiations with Cobb. Cobb will want the security of a longer termed deal, any free agent would, but whether he gets that or not remains to be seen.

One thing to keep in mind when comparing the two is that Cobb recently missed a season after undergoing Tommy John surgery (Lynn did too, making this comparison even more relevant). Not only will that hamper the sample size of his stats, but it could also conceivably be used in any negotiations with a team this offseason as many front offices continue to wait out players in hopes of their asking prices to come down. Whether the fact that Cobb had his ulnar collateral ligament replaces has any hinderance on his ability to sign a contract that he feels he is worth or not this offseason remains to be seen, but it will be mentioned and will be mentioned more and more the closer we get to Opening Day despite Cobb bouncing back from the surgery in 2017 to post a 12-10 record with a 3.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 128 strikeouts in 179.1 innings pitched.

Cobb is American League East tested after pitching his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays made Cobb their fourth-round pick in the 2006 MLB First Year Players Draft, something that cannot be overlooked in my opinion. Cobb is also Yankee Stadium tested posting a career 3.12 ERA and 0.865 WHIP in five career starts in the Bronx, all with the Rays. Adding an arm like Cobb to a rotation that will contain some combination of Sonny Gray, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery doesn’t make the Yankees the obvious favorites to win it all in 2018, but I bet it makes all those cocky ass Houston Astros fans that have had plenty to say this winter take a back seat for at least a day or two… and at this point I’d take that.





SIDE NOTE: 

Yes I realize signing Cobb to a $10 million AAV brings the Yankees dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold and leaves the team little room to wiggle around and play with in July. I feel like this has been said over a million times this offseason and that it didn't necessarily need to be said again, but contracts like Brett Gardner's and David Robertson could conceivably be moved in July to teams trying to contend for the postseason to clear money if necessary. Also it is worth mentioning, and he been beaten more than a dead horse, that every day that goes by a few dollars come off the contract of Jacoby Ellsbury making him more and more attractive, which could make the Yankees more and more likely to eat more money to get him off the books. 

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