Earl Williams: 1948-2013

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Earl Williams, who won the NL Rookie of the Year for the Braves in 1971, died Monday at age 64. Jorge Castillo of the Newark Star Ledger writes that Williams was diagnosed with leukemia last July.

Williams was a catcher/first baseman who played eight seasons in the majors for the Braves, Orioles, A’s, and Expos from 1970-1977. In addition to his strong rookie year Williams was an above-average hitter in each of his first four full seasons, averaging 29 homers per 160 games, but hit just .235 with a .679 OPS after age 25 and was finished in the majors at age 28.

He was traded from the Braves to the Orioles in a deal that sent current Nationals manager Davey Johnson to Atlanta, and Castillo notes that he clashed with Baltimore manager Earl Weaver to the point that Williams was suspended for “a reluctance on Williams’ part to listen without interruption.”

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.