Phil Coke was one of the heroes of the Tigers’ playoff run last season, taking over for Jose Valverde as the primary closer while allowing one run in 10.2 innings. And now, less than a year later, he’s been demoted to Triple-A.
Coke’s performance this season certainly hasn’t been pretty with a 5.00 ERA in 36 innings, but it’s not that far off from the 4.16 ERA he posted in 227 innings during his first three seasons with the Tigers and a deeper look at his numbers shows a reliever being misused. Coke has always been good against lefties and struggled against righties, but manager Jim Leyland has used him like a traditional setup man rather than like a southpaw specialist.
Coke has held lefties to a perfectly decent .716 OPS, but because righties have knocked him around for an .834 OPS and he’s faced more righties than lefties the overall results have been ugly. And it was the same story last year, as Coke was very good against lefties and very bad against righties while facing an equal number of both. If the Tigers used Coke to his strengths he’d still be in the majors, although Coke has balked at the idea of being a specialist anyway.
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.