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Report: Alex Cobb open to a potential deal with Cubs

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Free agent right-hander Alex Cobb is not expected to accept the Rays’ one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer. That’s hardly surprising, given his relative health and productivity in a free agent market that isn’t exactly teeming with viable starting pitchers. On Friday, Cobb hinted at a potential landing spot for the upcoming year, telling MLB Network Radio that he’d be “very honored” to discuss a deal with the Cubs’ Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey.

Hickey’s relationship with Cobb goes back through the 30-year-old’s entire six-year career in the bigs, and it certainly seems like he’d be willing to vouch for the starter. “I’d say, ‘Go ahead, good job, yeah I’m on board,” Hickey said in an interview Thursday. “He’s a 30-year-old pitcher who’s probably sat on the shelf […] flirting for three seasons. The usage is minimal for a 30-year-old type of pitcher. What he did with basically two pitches in the American League East last year was remarkable, incredible really.”

Maddon also saw Cobb pitch during the last few years of his managerial stint with the Rays, but familiarity isn’t the only factor in play here. The Cubs are positioning themselves for another run at the playoffs in 2018 and will need to bolster their rotation after losing both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey to free agency this offseason. There are a number of options they could pursue, including Cobb’s former teammate Chris Archer, but serious talks aren’t expected to begin until the GM Meetings next week.

On paper, at least, it appears to be a solid match. After missing nearly two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Cobb ran his 2017 campaign with a 12-10 record in 29 starts, complementing his efforts with a 3.66 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 through 176 1/3 innings. He reinvented his arsenal, leaning more on his four-seamer and curveball than his signature split-changeup and posted his best totals since 2014. Whether or not the Cubs intend to facilitate a reunion has yet to be seen, but they’ll undoubtedly have competition for the righty’s services if they sit on it too long.