Travis Hafner is back from the disabled list after sitting out the past four weeks with an oblique injury and the Indians created a roster spot for his return by optioning Travis Buck to Triple-A.
Hafner is in the lineup tonight as the designated hitter and cleanup man, but starting next Friday his playing time will be limited as the Indians begin a nine-game road trip in NL ballparks. Manny Acta has said that Hafner won’t be asked to play any first base, limiting him to pinch-hitting duties.
Acta also indicated that he wanted to see Hafner play more games at Double-A before deciding he was ready, but Hafner going 3-for-6 with a double in two rehab starts apparently convinced the Indians it was time.
Buck, who was signed as a free agent this offseason after being cut loose by the A’s, hit just .226 with a .617 OPS in 29 games. Hafner hit .345 with a .958 OPS in 32 games before the injury.
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.