Wednesday, December 13, 2017
  • The Heater
  • Marc Topkin

Rays $17.4-million gamble with Alex Cobb is rooted in not trading him during season

UPDATE, 6:11: Here is Cobb's reaction to the offer being made:

"It's extremely humbling and I'm very honored to receive such an offer from the Rays. Obviously I get the business side of it and reasons behind making the offer, buy obviously there's still a lot of confidence in me that they made that offer. I look forward to talking to my agents and figuring out what will be the best route going forward."

Additionally, Cobb said initial conversations have yielded "a lot of teams" at least interested in discussing possibilities with him, and that with the Rays making the offer he is looking forward to seeing how teams go forward as they have 10 days to decide.

UPDATE, 5:50: Here is what Rays GM Erik Neander said about their decision to make the offer:

"Alex is a winning player, and with what he has demonstrated throughout his time here, in terms of on-field talent and leadership, he is every bit deserving of this offer. Alex has the next decision in this process and we're prepared for the potential outcomes that come with it."

UPDATE, 3:49: The Rays are definitely making the qualifying offer, which becomes official at 5 p.m.

DEVELOPING: Keeping RHP Alex Cobb throughout the season in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to make the playoffs is what left the Rays in position today to take another expensive gamble that could have a drastic impact on their 2018 payroll.

While some teams will make a one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer to their free agents by today's 5 p.m. deadline angling to keep them around, the Rays are expected to do so hoping strongly Cobb declines so they can get draft pick compensation when he leaves.

That's nothing against Cobb, of course, a career-long Ray who is repeatedly praised for his strong pitching, clubhouse leadership and bulldog attitude.

Those were all part of the reasons the Rays declined to trade him by the July 31 non-waiver deadline, and again at the Aug. 31 postseason eligibility deadline (assuming there was a potential deal if he had been claimed), knowing it would not only impact their chances but also send the wrong message to the clubhouse, all of which is what put them in this position.

That and deciding they can't afford to keep Cobb now that he has reached free agency and, as one of the top starters on the market, is positioned to land a big bucks deal.

How much? Maybe along the lines of the five-year, $70-million deal Ian Kennedy got from the Royals in January 2016, or the five years and $80-million Mike Leake got from the Cardinals in Dec. 2015.

By most accounts, Cobb, who just turned 30, is one of the top five starters on the market this winter and should do well. Though there is some chatter that he may be limited to a three- or four-year contract given his injury history (coming off May 2015 Tommy John surgery) and that he has not fully re-mastered the split-changeup that was his best pitch, working mostly last season with a fastball/curveball combo as he went 12-10, 3.66 and piling up a career-high 179 1/3 innings.

Under MLB rules, Cobb and his agents will have 10 days to talk to teams and get a sense of what is likely to be out there before deciding. By rejecting the deal, he can go sign for whatever wherever (though the signing him does lose a pick), and the Rays will get a compensation pick, either at the end of the first round or the end of the second based on whether he gets more or less than $50-million.

But if Cobb decides the offers out there don't sound good enough, that teams want to see more (such as improvement with the changeup), he could opt to take the offer and return to the Rays for the 2018 season.
That $17.4-million salary would not only be the highest in franchise history, but likely would have a potentially several trickle down effect as the Rays are looking to reduce their payroll, which was $70-million at the start of last season and pushing $80-million by the end. With nearly $40-million already committed to five signed players, they would have to significantly alter their roster or find a way to increase their payroll if he returns.

The Rays were in a similar situation once previously, deciding after the 2012 season to make what was then a $13.3-million qualifying offer to CF B.J. Upton. They guessed right then, as he turned it down and signed a five-year, $75-million contract with the Braves. (With that compensation pick they drafted RHP Ryne Stanek, who made his debut in 2017 as a hard-throwing reliever.)

Former Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson was one of two players (of 10 offered) who accepted a QO last winter, and he made $17.2-million this season pitching for the Phillies and Orioles.

Comments
Is Alex Colome telling us something about Rays’ plans with his Instagram account?

Is Alex Colome telling us something about Rays’ plans with his Instagram account?

Closer Alex Colome was not traded by the Rays to the Cardinals on Tuesday night.But he appeared to be either prepping for or having some fun with the possibility.On his alexcolome37 verified Instagram account, Colome started following the Cardinals o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 2 – with some news

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 2 – with some news

UPDATE, 8:45: Tommy Hunter parlayed his solid 2017 season with the Rays into a two-year deal with the Phillies.UPDATE, 7:13: Unexpected sighting in the meetings lobby: Luke Scott, who looked in great shape at 39 and is at least talking about playing ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays make another small deal, acquiring INF Ryan Schimpf

Tampa Bay Rays make another small deal, acquiring INF Ryan Schimpf

The Rays made another small move to add infield depth on Tuesday, acquiring Ryan Schimpf from the Padres for minor league infielder Deion Tansel.Schimpf, 29, has played parts of the last two seasons in the majors, posting just a .195 average but with...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Tampa Bay Rays make a small deal, acquire INF Joey Wendle

While continuing discussions on bigger topics, the Rays made a small deal Monday, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's for a player to be named later or cash.Wendle, 27, spent part of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 over 36 games. ...
Published: 12/11/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

UPDATE, 6:14: The Rays continued talks with no major moves seemingly close, but did make a small deal, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's. Wendle, 27, has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 in 36 games. He is a lefty ...
Published: 12/11/17
Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash was first up in the media room at the winter meetings today and here are a few up the more interesting things he said:* On trade speculation regarding their veterans such as Chris Archer and Evan Longoria: "I know there is a l...
Published: 12/11/17
Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria considers his future with the Rays "somewhere in limbo" based on speculation he could be traded as part of a cost-cutting and rebuilding movement."I don't know what to think, really,'' Longoria told the Tampa Ba...
Published: 12/11/17
AL East life gets even tougher for Rays with Yankees acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins

AL East life gets even tougher for Rays with Yankees acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins

The Marlins apparently found a trade to Giancarlo Stanton's liking, reportedly striking a deal early Saturday to send the slugging outfielder to the Yankees.That's bad news for the Rays and the other AL East teams, who will now have to face Stanton &...
Published: 12/09/17
Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed takes part in event supporting fight against ALS

Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed takes part in event supporting fight against ALS

Tampa Bay Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed was up early Saturday to meet up with the Bladerunners team in Clearwater at the ALS Association Florida Chapter's annual Ride, Run, Roll to Defeat ALS, supporting Mike Leist, a former history teacher at St...
Published: 12/09/17
Ohtani makes surprising decision in picking Angels; will face Rays in July at the Trop

Ohtani makes surprising decision in picking Angels; will face Rays in July at the Trop

Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani decided on his team Friday, and it was something of a surprise as he opted to sign with the Angels.The Mariners and Padres had emerged as the favorites from the seven teams that were chosen, from the full fiel...
Published: 12/08/17