Washington Nationals: Alex Cobb solid late target

rjuckett
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Alex Cobb
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Alex Cobb /
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As the Grapefruit League continues, the Washington Nationals debate adding another starter. Alex Cobb is a decent choice if they do.

If the Washington Nationals think they must add another starter before the season starts, they should take a hard look at Alex Cobb.

The Boston native spent his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, but Washington is not squeamish on those pitchers. Instead, Cobb is a consistent pitch-to-contact player with decent results.

There is not a ton of mileage on his arm. Over four full and healthy seasons, Cobb’s highest workload was last year’s 179.1 innings. Before the surgery, his 166.1 frames were a career high in 2014.

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His career numbers scream mid-rotation starter. Cobb is not as strong as Jake Arrieta. But, he provides value and would be a rotation upgrade over A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde.

Over 700 career innings and 115 starts, Cobb is 45-30. A good record for a team flirting with .500 every season. His 3.50 ERA and 1.217 WHIP are solid numbers. Not a strikeout artist, 570 so far, his control is good with 204 walks.

Last season, Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in his first full post-surgery campaign. His WHIP was a decent 1.221. However, despite the highest inning count in his career, he whiffed only 128 or 6.4 K/9. The 2.2 BB/9, or 44 walks, is great. Those 22 home runs allowed is not.

His fielding independent ERA was 4.16 in 2017, suggesting luck sat on Cobb’s right arm. Pre-surgery, he was stingier in hits and homers allowed. In 2014, the hit rate sat at 7.7 with 11 dingers leaving the yard. Last year, his H/9 was 8.8.

With Cobb’s stuff, he is a classic junk baller. He features a hard sinker and mixes in a curve and splitter. Seven times last year, batters swing and missed double-digits over a game. His groundout-fly-out rate was 0.97. He can induce with the sinker but can get into trouble with fly balls.

Cobb’s strikeout high last year was seven. Max Scherzer he is not.

But, if Washington wants to add another Gio Gonzalez, Cobb is a good fit. A chance to pitch for a contender, even a loud home crowd, would boost him.

Aside from the homers, durability might be a concern. Even when healthy, Cobb has never started over 27 games a year. Is his sinker strong enough to win a playoff start? He won the 2013 American League Wild Card game over Cleveland.

Next: Either sign a starter now or wait til summer

Bottom line, Cobb at three years and $50 million is not a bad deal. If the Nats sign a pitcher now, he is affordable and an upgrade.

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