Opponents of baseball’s new plate-blocking rule, meant to protect catchers, got another round of ammo to add to their arsenal with what went on in Philadelphia this afternoon.
The Phillies and Diamondbacks were tied 2-2 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Howard had drawn a two-out walk to bring up Marlon Byrd. Byrd worked the count 3-2 before skying a fly ball into shallow right-center. Second baseman Didi Gregorius ranged out for it and appeared to have it, but the ball deflected off of his glove towards shallow center. Center fielder Ender Inciarte alertly picked up the ball and fired a seed to catcher Miguel Montero, who applied an easy tag to Ryan Howard for the third out.
Only one problem: Montero didn’t give Howard a lane to the plate. The umpires reviewed the play for more than three minutes, but ultimately reversed the out call, giving the Phillies the run although Howard never ended up touching the plate.
Let the debate begin anew.
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.