Could Odd Market Bring Cubs and Cobb Back Together?

So, uh, this offseason has been really strange. There’s been very little activity while rumors of interest in both trade and free agent targets have bounced back and forth with all the tediousness a novice ping-pong match. I mean, Tyler Flippin’ Chatwood has signed one of the biggest contracts of the winter and Wade By-God Davis landed the highest average annual value ever for a reliever.

There are some huge deals yet to be inked, but the gap between what’s being asked by players and what’s being offered by teams is far too wide to bridge at this point. Sitting in the center of all of that constipation at the top of the market is Alex Cobb, though it’s not because he’s one of the top guys. Rather, he’s sort of been drafting behind them and taking advantage of their wake. Sort of.

In addition to the disparity in perceived value between players and organizations, there is a pretty significant difference in talent when you move from Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish to Cobb. But when the former Ray’s original projected asking price was only one-third of what his two colleagues were expected to command, it only made sense to ask for more.

Rather than $15-16 million AAV over three or four seasons, Cobb may have been trying for something in the $18-20 million over up to five seasons. The Cubs had long been viewed as shoo-ins to land the righty at that earlier figure, particularly with the ties to Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey. Cobb himself spoke of that connection and even seemed to indicate that he was hoping to get something done with the Cubs.

When their “strong push” to sign Cobb at the Winter Meetings proved fruitless, however, the Cubs turned their attention to Darvish. Though more expensive for a longer period of time, Darvish’s obvious superiority as a pitcher may be more attractive. Arrieta is likewise a step up from Cobb and comes with built-in familiarity, except the Cubs want nothing to do with the $160 million over six years their former ace is reportedly looking for.

But what if the same things that pushed Cobb and the Cubs apart actually end up bringing them back together? What I mean is that the market was driven north to a point where, for whatever reason, teams have chosen not to play. Cobb asked for more because the guys above him figured to command such high sums, though it’s possible they upped their own demands in kind.

Whatever the case, it seems unlikely any of the pitchers in question are going to end up with what they’re looking for at this point. And if Cobb is one of the first to blink, that could mean the Cubs coming back around on him.

It’s possible that a little divisional rivalry could spur the Cubs to sign Cobb, although the Brewers have been mentioned in connection with Arrieta as well and it’s unlikely that would motivate the Cubs to plan a reunion. In the end, it’s all just a matter of striking the best balance between projected performance and actual cost.

If Cobb comes off of that fifth year and/or drops his annual cost by a couple million, the Cubs could easily be back on board. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if that actually happens before pitchers and catchers report.

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