St. Louis Cardinals: Why Alex Cobb to the Cardinals makes sense

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Alex Cobb /

Alex Cobb, one of the forgotten names of the 2018 off-season, has been a good starter with potentially elite stuff in the time he was healthy and developing. Two injury plagued years derailed that somewhat, but he would still be an excellent and underrated option for the St. Louis Cardinals.

There are a few factors that make the St. Louis Cardinals and Alex Cobb a good fit. The most important one being that Cobb is a very talented pitcher. His 3.50 ERA is decent enough, but marred by one rough season early in his career and 22.1 innings of injured pitching in 2016.

Speaking of injuries, another reason we can have this discussion at all is because of several injuries that derailed his development into a truly elite pitcher. Despite this, he has the talent to be the Cardinals number two starter, and was able to get in twenty-nine starts last season. We also can’t ignore the fact Cobb has had a clean bill of health, and was not known as injury-prone before this singular, compounded incident.

While seen as a rough stretch of luck for Cobb, it had its benefits the St. Louis Cardinals can exploit. First off, there is a high chance the Cardinals can get him for lower than the $18 million price tag that Sportrac puts on him because of the aforementioned injuries and the questions that they raise.

Another thing to note is the number of innings Cobb has pitched because of the injuries. While Cobb and Jake Arrieta are both close in age (Cobb is 30, Arrieta is 31), Cobb has 461 less innings pitched than Arrieta, actually making Cobb the more favorable option to sign to a longer term deal.

When you look at his numbers, there is no doubt the injuries affected Cobb. However, he remained a very effective pitcher through the 2017 season with the Rays, sporting a solid 3.66 ERA and striking out128 batters in 179.1 innings. Though it is a departure from what he could have followed a 2014 season in which he posted a 2.87 ERA and 149 K’s in 166.1 innings pitched, Cobb’s style allows him to survive without strikeouts, albeit less effectively.

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So what else about Cobb makes him a safe option, despite the injury?

The key is in the way that all his pitches have vertical break. His fastball dips enough to be considered a sinker by Brooks Baseball, paired with a splitter and a 12-6 curve that lead to great success on balls kept down.

He struggled with this more so than in previous seasons, but still posted a solid 47.8% ground ball percentage. Teams made Cobb pay when he didn’t.

An awful 13% of the fly balls hit off of him went for home runs. However, it was his first season back from two full years of injuries, and it is normal for pitchers to have a down season following returns from long-term injuries. It is also well documented that pitchers can come very close to returning to post-injury form, all signs that Cobb will get more comfortable next season.

It is also a point of interest that both the Cubs and Brewers have interest in Cobb, though no talks have actually occurred. This is the perfect scenario for the St. Louis Cardinals, as they can stick their heads into the mix and make it harder for two division rivals to sign one of the better starting pitching talents this year, while positioning themselves to spend some of the money that they would have given to Giancarlo Stanton.

It is a similar situation to the pursuit of Arietta, but with less money.

I think in terms of the money value and the potential for long-term longevity, Cobb is a better option than Jake Arrieta. He has been in a subtle decline since 2015, which makes the huge salary and long-term commitment that he will command all the more risky. Cobb will unquestionably command a significantly smaller salary, while providing more value per dollar than Arrieta.

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Overall, I think Cobb is a very reasonable option as a pitching free agency splash, and I believe that pursuing him would be beneficial to the Cardinals, whether they have intentions on actually signing him or not. What are your thoughts on Cobb to the Cardinals? Feel free to share below.