ANAHEIM — While most of September has been about sifting through the Angels’ young pitchers to see which ones have a place on the team in 2022, there’s one guy at the other end of the age spectrum who is also auditioning.
Except Alex Cobb is auditioning for all 30 teams.
Cobb gave up one run in 5-2/3 innings in the Angels’ 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
Jack Mayfield, who has become a thorn in the side of his former team, snapped a tie with a sixth-inning two-run double. It came too late for Cobb to get the victory, but he nonetheless continued his strong finish as he heads to the free agent market.
Cobb has allowed one run in 10-2/3 innings in his two starts since coming back from a wrist injury that cost him nearly two months. For the season, he has a 3.46 ERA.
Cobb is certainly upping his value for the winter. Because he’ll be 34 on Oct. 7, he’s not likely to be near the top of the starter class, but he might be working his way up to a multiyear deal, or at least a more lucrative one-year deal.
When the Angels got him from the Baltimore Orioles in December, it was essentially a salary dump.
The Orioles signed him to a four-year, $57 million deal and he pitched poorly enough – and was injured enough – that they were willing to pay $10 million of the $15 million Cobb was owed in 2021.
The Angels sent the Orioles utility infielder Jahmai Jones, who has hit .164 with a .439 OPS in 59 plate appearances this year with Baltimore.
Although Cobb had a 5.10 ERA with the Orioles, including a 4.30 mark last year, the Angels were betting on him performing better in a more pitcher-friendly environment and being a good clubhouse presence.
Manager Joe Maddon knew what Cobb could do, on the mound and in the clubhouse, because he managed him during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I don’t know what the future holds for him or what his intentions are, but what you saw the last few times, that’s what I saw in the past,” Maddon said. “It’s not like it’s a lesser version that it’s pretty much the same version.”
Cobb said the reunion with Maddon is one of many things he’s enjoyed most about his time with the Angels.
“I have always been a huge fan of Joe,” Cobb said. “He gave me my first chance at 23 and another chance at 33. I have a ton of respect for him. I think he manages people just about as well as anyone I’ve met in this lifetime.”
Cobb added that he even enjoyed the Angels’ fan base, which at times created “playoff intensity,” he said.
Certainly, the Angels would have some interest in bringing Cobb back in 2022, but they’ll have to decide how much they want to spend on him, knowing they also need a frontline starter. Cobb also will be coming off a season in which he had two stints on the injured list, limiting him to 17 starts and 88-1/3 innings, with perhaps one outing left.
Cobb said so far there’s been no substantive talk about a return, but he expects there to be at least some conversation.
“I think we’ve developed a good enough relationship to at least have casual conversation and see where each other are at,” Cobb said. “I don’t know what their plans are. I don’t know what my plans are, but (GM Perry Minasian) and I have a good enough relationship to at least communicate.”
Cobb’s September statement so far has come against two playoff-bound teams, the Chicago White Sox and Astros. He retired the first 10 hitters before an infield hit, a clean single and a walk got him into a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.
Cobb struck out Yuli Gurriel and got Carlos Correa on a groundout to escape.
Although the Astros scored a run against him in the sixth to tie the game, the Angels re-took the lead in the bottom of the inning on Mayfield’s double.
Mayfield, who played for the Astros in 2019 and 2020, hit a homer on Tuesday and had a three-run double on Wednesday. He added another double in the eighth inning on Thursday night.
Jason Castro hit a two-out solo home run in the ninth, but Raisel Iglesias struck out three for his 33rd save, putting an end to the Angels’ six-game losing streak and eight-game home losing streak.