Orioles, starting pitcher Alex Cobb reach agreement on four-year contract

SARASOTA, FLA — With opening day under two weeks away, the Baltimore Orioles have finally put together a five-man rotation. On Tuesday evening, the team reached a deal with former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb. The deal is reportedly a four-year contract. The exact dollar figure is unknown yet, but believed to be around $56 million, according to Roch Kubatko of MASN.

The 30-year-old starter played six seasons down in Florida for the Tampa Bay Rays, where he accumulated a career record of 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA, before entering the free agent market this offseason. Cobb’s road from 2011 to 2018 has certainly been a rollercoaster though. In 2013 and 2014 he held a 2.82 ERA and gave up just 24 home runs between both seasons.

On the other hand, Cobb has had some disappointing seasons in recent history. After missing all of 2015 with a UCL tear, Cobb only started five games in 2016 and finished with an ugly 8.59 ERA. His return to form in 2017 that resulted in a 12-10 record and a 3.66 ERA earned him some interest in the free agent market and the Orioles ended up giving him the multi-year deal he wasn’t getting offered by others.

The biggest question for a new Orioles pitcher is always how they will perform in Camden Yards. With Cobb playing in the American League East his entire career, he had the opportunity to take the mound in Baltimore more than others. In seven career starts at Camden Yards, Cobb is 3-1 with a 4.62 ERA.

One of the things that stands out about Cobb is his ability to limit the long ball. He has averaged just under 11 home runs per season in his career, which the Orioles hope will translate to his new home. With Camden Yards being a notoriously hitter-friendly park, Cobb’s talents will be tested. He has surrendered four homers in seven starts there.

Cobb will not get much spring training time to prepare before opening day rolls around but his presence rounds out an Orioles rotation that has been under question all offseason. There may not be much depth and none of the five starters stand out as a true ace, but I think fans should feel more comfortable with these five taking the mound instead of one of the many Triple-A arms in the system.

This move will also likely end the talks of making Miguel Castro a starter. The 23-year-old showed a lot of promise out of the pen last season but Buck Showalter gave him a lot of innings of work in a short amount of time. Castro clearly showed fatigue after pitching 66 innings in 2017 so stretching him out into a starter never sounded like a reasonable option.

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Michael Crabtree lands three-year deal with Baltimore Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, MD — The Baltimore Ravens have been making a lot of moves this week to try to bolster their wide receiver core. John Brown and Ryan Grant were both signed as soon as free agency opened, but the team backed out of their deal with Grant after seeing something pop up on his physical.

By voiding their contract with Grant, the Ravens gave themselves more money to pursue other free agents but also took a step back in their pursuit of building a complete offense. Their fortunes would change on Friday though, when recently-released Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree came to Owings Mills for a visit and left with a new three-year contract worth $21 million.

The 30-year-old receiver enters his tenth professional season in 2018. After being drafted by the 49ers, Crabtree spent six years in San Francisco. For the past three seasons he has put up some of the best numbers of his career while playing for the Oakland Raiders.

Crabtree averaged 77 receptions, 847 yards and eight touchdowns per season in his time with Oakland. After missing out on players like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson, the Ravens finally found themselves a true veteran receiver to build around.

It’s hard to say where the Ravens will go from here. Mike Wallace has been a reliable target in Baltimore for the past two seasons, but there is some uncertainty as to whether he will receive a larger payday with another team. Bringing him back would surely do a lot to solidify a receiving core that was on life support just a week ago. Unfortunately, receivers are not the only need the Ravens have on their roster, so the front office’s attention could turn to another position before the draft.

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Mark Trumbo to miss start of season after MRI reveals quad strain

After experiencing some lingering issues in spring training, Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo underwent an MRI on Tuesday. The test revealed a Grade 2 quadriceps strain that will sideline the slugger for three to four weeks.

Trumbo recently missed about a week of action but returned to the field on Wednesday for the Orioles game against the New York Yankees. The 32-year-old was penciled in the lineup as a designated hitter and saw three plate appearances.

Manager Buck Showalter said Trumbo was fine during the game but experienced some stiffness and soreness while driving home, leading the team to request an MRI. The tests revealed a more serious injury that will likely force Trumbo to miss the beginning of the season.

With opening day just two weeks away, the Orioles will be without one of their best power hitters as they prepare to compete in the tough American League East. Trumbo has hit 70 home runs while batting .246 in two seasons with Baltimore.

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Ryan Grant to sign four year deal with Ravens

Not long after news broke of the Ravens reaching a deal with former Cardinals receiver John Brown, another signing came through the free agency pipeline. Baltimore has also reached a deal with former Washington Redskins receiver, Ryan Grant.

Grant was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft but has only started 15 games in his four-year career. It has been reported that the Ravens will be giving Grant a four-year deal worth $29 million. A contract of this size is a puzzling to say the least considering how little play time Grant has seen. To his credit, Grant has remained healthy so far in his career and is coming off his best season.

In 2017 the 27-year-old receiver accumulated 573 yards and four touchdowns on 45 receptions. All of these were career-highs as Grant started in seven of the Redskins’ 16 games.

After being heavily criticized by fans all week, it appears the Ravens’ front office has been quietly working on filling the teams needs. The quality of both of these signings will surely be debated, but we all know that both Brown and Grant are role players and not number one wide receivers. The success of both of these signings will depend heavily on who else they can ink this offseason to round out the receiving core.

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Ravens expected to sign wide receiver John Brown

While the deal is not yet official, it has been reported that the Ravens have reached a deal with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown.

This will mark the Ravens’ first dip into the free agency pond for the 2018 season. With many big names in the receiver market, like Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins, quickly finding new homes, the Ravens have had to look elsewhere a little faster than they may have expected.

Drafted in 2014, Brown has never started all 16 games in a season and has dealt with some injuries. Despite this, Brown has managed to be a solid contributor in his time on the field. In just five starts last season, Brown posted just under 300 yards on 21 catches.

His speed is considered his greatest asset and with the Ravens still very much in need of receivers, it’s hard to say Brown doesn’t fit. Free agency is just getting started but if the Ravens play their cards right and continue to build a receiving core, this deal could be looked back on very fondly.

Injuries will be a big concern though. Brown suffered from lingering hamstring problems in 2016 and then battled some back and toe issues in 2017. If he can stay healthy, Brown is certainly capable of putting up some great numbers, as seen in 2015 when he racked up over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in just 11 starts. Even his numbers in the past two injury-plagued seasons indicate that Brown makes the most of his time on the field. This looks like a low risk, high reward deal for the Ravens.

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Ravens sign James Hurst to four year deal

Just hours before free agency talks can begin, The Baltimore Ravens announced that they had re-signed left guard, James Hurst to a four-year deal worth $17.5 million.

With Hurst set to hit the open market this week, the Ravens saw an opportunity to bring their left guard back on a friendly deal. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported that Hurst will receive $8 million guaranteed.

Due to injuries and loses in free agency, the Ravens moved Hurst from left tackle to left guard in 2017. The former undrafted free agent would end up starting all 16 games for the first time in his career while playing a new position.

Hurst is far from one of the best lineman in the league but his stability has been of great value to the Ravens so far. Since joining the league in 2014, Hurst has been available for all 64 games of his career. Despite being graded outside the top 50 at the guard position by Pro Football Focus, the Ravens could always use a durable lineman.

Fellow offensive lineman, Ryan Jensen will start receiving calls from other teams today as he prepares to hit the open market later this week. There are many needs on this Ravens team but solidifying the line is always a safe option. With no concrete depth behind Jensen the Ravens would likely try to make a serious run at retaining him but his breakout year in 2017 could command a larger payday elsewhere.

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Ben Watson receives Ed Block Courage Award at 40th annual gala

The 40th annual Ed Block Courage Awards were held on Saturday night at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Baltimore. Players from all 32 NFL teams were nominated by their teammates to receive this award that honors those with great courage when overcoming adversity.

Not all 32 winners could be in attendance for Saturday’s annual ceremony but those who did make the trip were welcomed by a large group of friends, family and fans for a day of celebration. Some of the days festivities included a silent auction and an autograph session with this years class of award winners.

The highlight of the evening though was when all the recipients took the stage and officially received their awards. The large audience in attendance gave many standing ovations to the players who have sacrificed so much just to be where they are today.

Ravens tight end Ben Watson is one of those players. After being signed by Baltimore in 2016, Watson was eagerly looking forward to the challenges that come with playing for a new team. The 37-year-old has been in the league for 14 years with four different teams but what he experienced in the Ravens third preseason game of 2016 would change his career in a matter of seconds.

Watson lined up with the offense for the very first snap of the Ravens preseason game against the Detroit Lions. With the pressure of trying to impress a brand new group of teammates, coaches and fans, Watson pushed off the line ready to make in impact. Instead of sprinting down the field for his route, the tight end collapsed to the turf and had to be helped off the field. During his acceptance speech on Saturday, Watson says he knew exactly what had happened as soon as he hit the ground; a torn Achilles.

“Tearing my Achilles and not being able to play the first year in Baltimore with such expectations for myself was very difficult,” said Watson. “But I am honored to be a part of this organization and for them to vote for me for this award is really humbling.”

As an aging player in a young mans league Watson was working against many forces when he made his eventual comeback but in 2017 all of that hard work paid off and the veteran tight end was able to make a big impact on the Ravens offense. Watson led the team in receptions and finished second in receiving yards while being a reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

“My goal this year was to just make it on the field,” said Watson. “Then continuing to be able to contribute to the team and stay relatively healthy was definitely a blessing.”

Making that comeback in 2017 was extremely important for Watson but he will be remembered long after the game is over for his efforts off the field. Like many other players in attendance on Saturday, Watson has been a very active member of his community and continues to go above and beyond to help those around him. In 2008 Watson and his wife Kirsten started the One More Foundation, which has allowed them to help others by meeting real needs, promoting education, and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiatives. These efforts were recognized not long ago when Watson was named one of the finalists for the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Before joining the Ravens, Watson was known around the league as a very vocal and passionate voice. He has appeared on national news multiple times to discuss political issues that are important to him and continues to do so today. Over the past few years more professional athletes have taken a stand for a variety of issues they believe in, often sparking a debate in the process.

With phrases like “stick to sports” and “shut up and dribble” being thrown toward these players, veterans like Watson have kept their head down and continued to lead by example in a divisive climate.

“Although your occupation is to play football, that doesn’t define totally who you are,” said Watson. “These guys are husbands, fathers, voters, citizens and more importantly they are Americans.” The Ravens tight end went on to say that his fellow players all have a voice and opinions that are unique to them. “I encourage these young guys to be the best player that you can be because that is your occupation, but also find something else that you are passionate about and be willing to stand for that.”

You can listen to the full audio of our interview with Ben Watson here: 

Image Credit: Nolan McGraw / Charm City Bird Watch