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Rays expected to extend qualifying offer to Alex Cobb

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The Rays are expected to make a $17.4 million qualifying offer to starter Alex Cobb, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports.

Cobb, 30, is eligible for free agency. This past season, he went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and a 128/44 K/BB ratio in 179 1/3 innings. The right-hander missed the entire 2015 season and didn’t debut in 2016 until September 2 due to Tommy John surgery.

Despite the history of arm trouble, Cobb is among the best pitchers expected to hit the free agent market along with Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and Lance Lynn.

The latest collective bargaining agreement amended some of the rules in the qualifying offer system. Compensation for players who rejected a qualifying offer now depends on whether or not a team receives money from revenue sharing, the previous team’s market size, whether or not the previous team went over the luxury tax threshold, and whether or not the player’s new contract is under $50 million.

Generally speaking, a team losing a player who rejected a QO to free agency will receive a draft pick in compensation Round B. If that team paid the luxury tax, their compensation will instead come after the fourth round. If that team received revenue sharing money and the free agent signed a contract worth $50 million or more, that team will receive a draft pick coming after the first round.

Furthermore, teams signing players who rejected a QO pay less of a penalty which is a bit of a boon to free agents’ value. Whereas those teams may have had to give up a first round pick previously, they will now give up draft picks after their first in the first round and/or competitive balance picks. Teams that exceeded the luxury tax relinquish their second- and fifth-round picks as well as $1 million from their international bonus pool as compensation for signing a player who rejected a QO. A team that receives revenue sharing would lose its third-highest draft pick. Should that team sign multiple QO-rejecting players, it would surrender its fourth-highest pick. A team that exceeded the luxury tax and does not receive revenue sharing will lose its second-highest draft pick plus $500,000 from international money. If that team signs multiple such players, it gives up its third-highest pick as well.

It’s complicated — perhaps unnecessarily so — but it’s the system we’ve got right now and it’s the one Cobb and others will deal with this offseason. We’ll have more updates in the coming days as word gets out about teams’ willingness to make qualifying offers to their impending free agents.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal,¬†LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune¬†reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.