The Phillies are taking a "hard look" at John Smoltz

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So says Jayson Stark. The idea being for Smoltz to be a “back-of-bullpen weapon.”  Given Brad Lidge’s performance last year he could be a Nerf gun and still represent an improvement.

Smoltz has long been on record as preferring starting to coming out of the pen.  Earlier in the week the Nationals reportedly had interest in him.  One would assume that they’d offer him a spot in the rotation — and a mentoring role to Stephen Strasburg — if he were so inclined. But the Nationals are going to lose a lot of games. If he goes to Philadelphia, he can win.

Starting or winning? We’ll soon find out what’s more important to John Smoltz.

Report: Orioles interested in Alex Cobb

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.

Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.

It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.