Astros select Josh Fields from Red Sox with first pick in Rule 5 draft

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With the top pick in the Rule 5 draft the Astros snagged right-hander Josh Fields from the Red Sox.

Fields was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2008, going 20th overall out of the University of Georgia, but never reached the majors and is now 27 years old.

He’s always had very good strikeout numbers, but walked 5.9, 5.7, and 6.7 batters per nine innings in his first three pro seasons. That all changed this year, as Fields cut his walk rate to 2.8 per nine innings while posting a 2.01 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 58 innings between Double-A and Triple-A for the Red Sox.

Boston got Fields in the Erik Bedard trade and chose not to protect him, so the Astros will gladly add his mid-90s fastball to their bullpen mix and hope the improved control is for real.

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.