Is there a more obvious connection this winter than Alex Cub, er, Cobb and the defending NL Central champs? Cobb has spent his entire career in Tampa, where he played for both Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey to varying degrees over the past several years. And he hasn’t been shy about the idea of doing so for several more years.
“I don’t hide the fact that I’ve got the most respect for Joe Maddon and what he did for me coming up as a player,” Cobb told MLB Network Radio on Friday. “Not so much as a pitcher on the mound, but as a professional athlete and a professional baseball player, and how to deal with the mental side of the game. And how to deal with the stresses that come with a big-league lifestyle.”
Okay, that’s cool, but it could just be professional courtesy. Unless there was some kind of highly public fallout, and maybe even in that case, a player is almost always going to speak well of a former manager. Once Cobb began to discuss Hickey and a potential reunion, though, he eschewed all innuendo and any trace of doubt as to his intentions.
“I can’t say enough good things about [Hickey],” Cobb said. “He’s become not only a pitching coach, but a real close friend of mine. Obviously, if we move down the line and we’re able to have some discussions with them, I’d be very honored to be able to talk with them and hopefully come to a deal.”
Dude, you can’t get any more obvious than that outside of just saying that you’ve told your agent to give the Cubs a discount to make up for the international bonus pool money they’ll lose to sign you (Cobb got a qualifying offer from the Rays). Not that it really matters, since there’s rarely such a fortuitous confluence of a team’s need and a free agent’s affinity for said team’s leadership. This is like Andre Dawson, but less awesome and more expensive.
I’m not saying Cobb can’t or won’t be good in Chicago, just that Hawk was a freaking beast and there’s no way anyone lives up to his legendary blank-check deal. The 30-year-old pitcher could well be exactly what the Cubs need, though I can’t imagine the fine folks at Beverly Hills Sports Council were too keen on him expressing his undying devotion to his once and future coaches.
It’s not a sure thing that Cobb ends up in Chicago, but it’s hard to see otherwise between his stated priority of joining a winner and his professed affinity for Maddon and Hickey. And with a projected annual value of $14.5-15 million per season, the Cubs could easily afford the righty as part of their rotation for the next few years.
Now it’s a simple matter of working out the fine details, which I’m sure won’t be all that difficult.