March 20, 2017
The Waiting Game
Cobb draws trade interest from Cubs, Dodgers
Alex Cobb has been patient for the last two years. He waited through platelet-rich plasma treatments when he was first diagnosed with a torn UCL in 2015. He bided his time through the inevitable Tommy John surgery and the accompanying 349-day recovery period. He worked his way back to the mound, slowly and steadily, and pitched 22 innings of 5.04 DRA ball that reassured the Rays he still had a usable arm while simultaneously confirming that he was not yet near the 2.69 DRA, 4.4 WARP pitcher he had been in 2014.
After spending the better part of the last two years on the mend, Cobb has returned to the Rays a veteran starter with no. 3 potential. Working back from Tommy John surgery is no easy feat, however, and should things go south for the team in 2017, it’s conceivable that they could be quick to put Cobb on the trading block. It’s not a bad spot to be, just a different one than he might have anticipated in the spring of 2015, when his arm was healthy, his job secure, and his cFIP well below 100.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Cobb is set to enter free agency at the end of 2017 and has already started to prepare for a potential departure from the organization. There’s a reasonable chance that he could finish the season in a different uniform, possibly one that belongs to the Dodgers or Cubs if Cobb’s connection to ex-Rays Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman carries any weight. No move appears to be imminent, given that Cobb is still needed in the Rays’ rotation and both the Dodgers and Cubs appear to have plenty of options to round out their own pitching staffs for the time being.
Before the Rays begin to assess their trade options, they’ll have to wait to see what Cobb brings to the mound this year. A return to form could anchor the right-hander to the rotation on a more permanent basis, particularly if he improves his velocity and develops his changeup and curveball into effective pitches. If not, it’ll be Cobb’s turn to wait yet again.
Diamondbacks gauge interest in Ahmed
There’s a surfeit of middle infielders in the Diamondbacks’ camp, which is good news for everyone not named Nick Ahmed. Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings appear to have a leg up on major-league roles, while the multi-talented Ildemaro Vargas will provide positional depth from Triple-A Reno after impressing with slick glovework and a loud bat during his Cactus League campaign.
Now, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic speculates that Ahmed could be up for trade. While the team is reportedly taking offers on the 27-year-old shortstop, nothing has been publicized yet. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune adds that the Padres could take another flyer on Ahmed as they approach Opening Day with Luis Sardinas and Erick Aybar as their primary options at shortstop.
Ahmed turned in a cumulative 2.1 WARP over a three-year track with the Diamondbacks, finishing his run with a career-worst .197 TAv and season-ending hip surgery in 2016. According to Piecoro, he’s made a full recovery this spring, though his value still hinges on his sharp defense and versatility up the middle, both of which should appeal to any team looking to deepen their infield reserves by the start of the season.
Gonzalez out for six weeks with UCL tear
The rash of spring training injuries continues to spread through the Rangers’ roster, where right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is expected to miss significant time with a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow. He’s due for a platelet-rich plasma injection, though the team is eyeing Tommy John surgery as a possibility if the 25-year-old doesn’t show improvement over the next six weeks.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News anticipates a return around the second half of the season, which he calls a “best-case scenario” for the starter. If Tommy John surgery is necessary, Grant adds, the timetable for his return will be pushed back to the All-Star break in 2018.
This appears to be the first substantial injury Gonzalez has sustained in his professional career. He got his major-league break with the Rangers in 2015, but a 7.35 DRA and ongoing command issues limited him to just 10 innings with the club in 2016. He was expected to compete for a spot in the back end of the rotation this month, but exhibited similar command issues and poor velocity in three Cactus League outings before landing on the shelf.