Pirates, Garrett Jones had arbitration hearing Wednesday

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From the Associated Press, via NBCSports.com, comes word that the Pirates engaged in a salary arbitration hearing on Wednesday afternoon with outfielder-first baseman Garrett Jones.

Jones requested a salary of $2.5 million and was offered $2.25 million from the Bucs when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. Despite the mere $250,000 gap, the two sides were unable to reach a compromise. Thus, a three-person panel of independent arbitrators will be tasked with choosing between one of the two submitted figures Thursday.

Jones batted .243/.321/.433 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI across 477 plate appearances last season for Pittsburgh while earning a salary ($450,000) just north of the league minimum. The 30-year-old will be eligible for salary arbitration three more times before getting a crack at the free agent market heading into 2016.

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.