(CBS) In the early days of his tenure as the new Cubs pitching coach, Jim Hickey has already been tasked with evaluating potential pitching targets for the team this offseason.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Hickey would endorse the Cubs pursuing free-agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who has spent his entire career seven-year big league career in with the Rays working under Hickey, who spent the last 11 seasons as Tampa Bay’s pitching coach before coming to Chicago.
“I’d say, ‘Go ahead, good job, yeah I’m on board,'” Hickey said on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on Thursday when asked what he’d tell Cubs brass about a free-agent pursuit of Cobb. “We’ve actually already talked about a number of free agents, whether they’re starting pitchers or relief pitchers. And I’ve been given a couple assignments already as well.”
Cobb, 30, was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 179 1/3 innings across 29 starts in 2017. He has a career 3.50 ERA working under Hickey, and the Cubs are in the market to add a starting pitcher in free agency as they brace for Jake Arrieta and John Lackey to leave.
Cobb reinvented himself a great deal after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2015. Cobb then missed most of 2016 too recovering. In his first full season back in 2017, Cobb had a quality fastball and curveball but couldn’t get his form on his changeup, Hickey said.
“I would trust the arm 100 percent, especially because he did miss the time that he missed,” Hickey said. “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.
“It’s such a testament to his competitiveness that he basically did it with a fastball and a curveball. He did use the changeup on occasion, but it was not very effective at all, and what he did, like I said earlier, was remarkable.”
Hickey also spoke highly of 29-year-old Rays ace right-hander Chris Archer, whose talent and team-friendly contract makes him the type of pitcher that the Cubs covet on the trade market. Archer was an All-Star in 2017, finishing with a 4.07 ERA, an 11.01 strikeouts-per-nine innings mark and a 4.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has a career 3.63 ERA, all under Hickey’s watch.
“It was a pleasure, a real treat to work with Chris,” Hickey said. “You’re probably a little bit familiar with him and the type of guy he is. He’s very intelligent. He’s very articulate. He’s a guy who just happens to play baseball, you know what I mean? He’s not a baseball player, period, end of story. He’s got all kinds of branches on his life tree, if you will. He’s extremely, extremely active in the community, extremely generous, a treat to be around. You talk about electric stuff, this guy’s got fastball, he’s a slider that gets up to 90 miles per hour that really looks like a curveball. He takes the ball every fifth day. That’s another thing that’s really, really impressive about Chris.”
So how would Hickey react if the Cubs pursued Archer on the trade market.
“Yeah, I think I’d have to sign off on that one, for sure,” Hickey said with a laugh.