There’s naturally a lot of focus on Albert Pujols’ impending free agency this winter, but let’s not forget that Adam Wainwright is on track to return to the Cardinals’ starting rotation next season.
Wainwright, 30, missed the entire 2011 season following Tommy John surgery in February. He was recently shut down for a week due to some scar tissue in his surgically-repaired elbow, but resumed playing catch this week. The Cardinals have already exercised their options for 2012 and 2013 on the right-hander and he is expected to have a normal offseason before reporting to spring training.
Wainwright was one of the top starting pitchers in the game before the surgery, posting a 2.93 ERA from 2007-2010. Command is often the last thing to bounce back after surgery, so he is no lock to perform at an elite level out of the gate, but with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook all under contract for next season, the starting rotation is in pretty solid shape.
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.