Conflicting Reports on Cobb’s Big Asking Price, Cubs’ Talks with Orioles About Britton

With all the various reports and rumors flying around this time of year, it’s hard to discern fact from fiction. Some of the conflicting information is intentional as agents and team execs alike put up smoke screens to obscure their true intentions. That may be the case with Alex Cobb, whose rhetoric early in the offseason had him looking like a sure things for the Cubs.

But as it became evident that the top of the market was indeed going to separate itself by a wide margin, Cobb’s asking price may have shot up from what was widely presumed to be $15 million AAV over four years. And more than just pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, as Tyler Chatwood’s $12.67 AAV deal could have given the folks at Beverly Hills Sports Council more confidence to bump their overall target.

Surely they wouldn’t have pushed the envelope as far as what some reports were saying, though.

Okay, good, because I was starting to worry a little bit that Cobb and his agents had lost their damn fool minds. Or maybe that he’d completely priced himself out of the Cubs’ comfort zone, though another team would be welcome to him at that cost. Don’t get me wrong, Cobb could be a very good pitcher. But $80 million for a Tommy John recipient who’s never thrown 180 innings and who may have lost his best pitch is crazy salty.

Contrary to what logic and Bruce Levine tell us, however, that $20 million AAV might be accurate after all. In his column detailing the Cubs’ activity on the final day of the Winter Meetings, Gordon Wittenmyer cites sources telling him the ask is indeed that high. So what are we to make of these conflicting reports from a pair of Cubs beat writers?

The first and most obvious thought is that one of them is wrong, with Wittenmyer being the most likely culprit. And that’s not an indictment of his sources or his journalistic integrity, it just seems unlikely that Cobb is really seeking that much. We must also consider that Levine is incorrect, though his report has a little more veracity given that it’s coming from Cobb’s camp.

We turn next to the idea that both men are correct and Cobb has simply raised his asking price in the 48 hours between the reports. That’s certainly possible, especially if enough teams were pursuing him that it made sense to get a little more adventurous.

And then you go with the galaxy brain take, which is that both men are right and the refutation of that purported ask was based on the number of years. Levine cited a very specific number in terms of years and dollars, but what if Cobb’s camp was actually wanting five years and $100 million? That would mean both Levine and Wittenmyer were totally accurate.

It would also mean that Cobb is totally not a Cub, but I can’t imagine he’s really trying to get that much. Giving him $80 for four years would be a tremendous overpay, so adding another year at the same AAV would be flat-out stupid. Not that I could blame BHSC for trying or the team reps from laughing in their faces.

In the end, I’d imagine we see things pushing into the $16-17 million per year range. Maybe there could be escalators for innings pitched and whatnot. Hey, here’s an idea: The Cubs can offer him $15 million per with an incentive that pays him $5 million extra per year if he received a Cy Young vote in 2017. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

While we’re on the topic of conflicting reports, there was an interesting note in Wittenmyer’s column that I was going to point out but that is now gone. Its sudden absence continues to gnaw at me, even more than my 11-year-old daughter asking for help with math homework that I’ve long since forgotten how to do. Wittenmyer had dropped in a parenthetical snippet exhorting us not to believe the report that the Cubs had rekindled talks with the Orioles about Zach Britton.

The Cubs aren’t done with their bullpen redesign, and a reunion with free-agent closer Wade Davis isn’t out of the question. The Cubs have maintained contact with Davis despite their slimmer wallet. [I think the Britton note was here]

I mean, that little “Don’t believe those reports about talks involving Zach Britton, by the way” (paraphrased) struck me enough for me to include it in my title, so I’m sure I wasn’t just hallucinating it as I sat there waiting for my Papa Murphy’s pizzas. And I know what you’re thinking, but no, there weren’t mushrooms on either pie. So the only thing I’m left thinking is that there was a little ninja editing involved. But why?

The conspiracy theorist in me says that the rescission is proof that the initial report about the Britton talks are indeed accurate and the Sun-Times folks didn’t want to incorrectly cast aspersions. The pragmatist in me says that the little aside seemed more petty in retrospect than it had at first blush and they chose to remove it as a result.

I’ll let you believe what you will, which includes thinking that I’m mistaken in what I saw or that I’m attempting to undermine a journalist. But I just double-checked with someone else whose keen eye and knowledge of the subject matter I respect a great deal and he confirmed that the Britton note was indeed in there at one point.

So I guess we just shrug our shoulders and wait for more.

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