Heath Bell blew another save last night, coughing up his fourth lead in seven tries, and afterward manager Ozzie Guillen finally seemed ready to make a change at closer after previously saying he’d stick with Bell through the struggles:
We’ll check tomorrow about what’s going to be the situation with the closer. We’ve got to do something about it. We can’t be waiting anymore. Tomorrow we might talk to him about the situation. If we’re going to be in the pennant race, he’s got to be better. Tomorrow we’ll have a better idea what to do with him.
If there’s any good news to be had within Bell’s performance it’s that he isn’t getting clobbered, allowing just one homer in 53 plate appearances. Unfortunately everything else is bad news, as he’s allowed a .385 batting average while walking 10 batters in 8.2 innings and has managed just six strikeouts. Oh, and his ERA is 11.42.
Bell’s strikeout rate dropping from 11.1 per nine innings to 7.3 per nine innings last season certainly hinted at a decline in raw stuff, particularly at age 34, but obviously a total collapse was unexpected following a season in which he saved 43 games with a 2.44 ERA.
Edward Mujica gives Guillen a good fallback option at closer, as he’s logged 252 innings with a 3.54 ERA and fantastic 217/43 K/BB ratio since 2009, but with Bell one month into a three-year, $27 million contract a long-term switch will be tough.
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.