The Orioles aren’t done reducing their payroll and increasing the amount of young talent funneled into the organization during the rebuild process.
An industry source confirmed this morning that the Orioles are in trade discussions with the Angels involving starting pitcher Alex Cobb, 33, who’s entering the final year of his four-year, $57 million contract and currently stands as the second-highest paid player on the team.
There’s work to be done before the deal is finalized - a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that “there’s a lot left that needs to happen” - but talks seem to be trending in the right direction.
Cobb received the most lucrative contract for a pitcher in franchise history in March 2018, when the Orioles tried to make one final run at the playoffs under their previous front office. They also were negotiating with starter Lance Lynn, but couldn’t reach an agreement.
The three seasons that followed have seen Cobb go 7-22 with a 5.10 ERA and 1.419 WHIP in 41 starts since leaving the Rays. He wasn’t able to make his opening day start in 2019 due to injury and underwent procedures on his hip and knee, which limited him to only three appearances. He’s also been bothered by recurring blisters on his right hand.
Cobb made 10 starts last summer, going 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.338 WHIP in 52 1/3 innings, and he went on the injured list in September as part of baseball’s COVID-19 protocol. He posted a 2.61 ERA in his first four outings and allowed three runs in his last 13 innings, which produced a pair of quality starts.
Since joining the Orioles, Cobb has gone 0-11 at Camden Yards with a 5.29 ERA in 18 starts covering 97 innings. A statistical oddity that he apparently won’t be able to correct.
Cobb would be reunited with Angels manager Joe Maddon, who guided the Rays from 2006-14. He’d also become teammates again with starter Dylan Bundy and shortstop José Iglesias.
The teams are attempting to complete their third trade since December 2019. The Orioles have received minor league pitchers Isaac Mattson, Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich, Zach Peek, Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto.
The veteran right-hander’s contract includes a no-trade clause to 10 teams. He was set to earn $15 million in 2021 without prorated pay and the Orioles likely would have to absorb a chunk of it to complete the deal.
They showed a willingness to do so in the past, according to a source.
First baseman Chris Davis would be the only member of the team making more than $5 million. Outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini agreed to a $4.75 million deal to avoid arbitration, matching his 2020 salary prior to the COVID-19 shutdown and reduced schedule.
Removing Cobb from the rotation could create a spot for another young arm in the system.
Left-hander John Means already was the favorite to start on opening day, which is set for April 1 in Boston. Rookies Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer are expected to hold their spots and the camp competition is going to include Jorge López and rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, among others.
The Athletic first reported the trade discussions.
Update: The Orioles are acquiring second baseman/outfielder Jahmai Jones, 23, from the Angels in exchange for Cobb and are paying more than half of the $15 million remaining on the right-hander’s contract, as The Athletic and others are reporting.
Jones was a second-round pick in 2015 out of Wesleyan School in Georgia who signed for $1.1 million. He made his major league debut last summer and was 3-for-7 in three games.
MLBPipeline.com ranked Jones as the Angels’ No. 7 prospect.
Jones was an outfielder who moved to second base in 2018. He’s a career .258/.338/.386 hitter in the minors and grades highly for his speed, versatility and plate discipline.
Sixteen games in the Arizona Fall League in 2019 produced a .302/.377/.509 slash line with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias sought infield depth and got it while also shedding some of Cobb’s salary. Freddy Galvis and Yolmer Sánchez project as the starters at shortstop and second base, respectively.
The teams haven’t announced the trade.