Despite some early optimism that Rays pitcher Alex Cobb could rehab his elbow and be ready at some point this season, that is no longer a possibility.
#Rays Cobb announces he has decided to have Tommy John surgery— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 8, 2015
After a breakout season in 2013, Cobb followed it up with an even more impressive year, finishing with an ERA of 2.87, an FIP of 3.23, and an fWAR of 2.9. He was expected to be the leader of the starting rotation, but instead will be sidelined until at least June of 2016. While the Rays initially wanted to see how he'd respond to rehab, Cobb said that the decision to undergo surgery was much easier to make once he found out that his UCL was completely torn.
Cobb will have the procedure done next Thursday, and will be performed by famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
How does this affect the Rays?
Since Cobb had yet to make his 2015 debut, the only thing that changes is that the Rays can plan ahead knowing full well that he won't be back in big league action until mid-2016. The current rotation is comprised of Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns, Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome. With Cobb not coming back, it would seem as though the Rays are set with this alignment for the foreseeable future, but they do have one pitcher coming back relatively soon.
Matt Moore throwing to hitters. Looks strong.#rays— Bill Chastain (@wwchastain) May 8, 2015
Matt Moore is almost complete with his rehab, and threw live BP to Rays hitters at Tropicana Field earlier today. He's likely to return to the rotation at some point in June, and when he does, Karns will probably be the odd man out. Thus far he has an ERA of 4.05, an FIP of 5.08, and hasn't made any noticeable improvements. His strikeout rate has decreased dramatically, while his walk rate has skyrocketed to 4.59 per nine innings.
The Rays already have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, and if Moore is healthy, can help give them another edge for a potential playoff run. This is obviously bad news for the Rays, but if there's any silver lining, it's that Cobb is having the surgery now rather than in a couple months. He's under team control through the 2017 season, which means that once he comes back from surgery, he could be auditioning for a future trade due to the Rays payroll limitations.
Alex Cobb told the media that he's targeting September of 2016 as a tentative return date, rather than June. Rehab from Tommy John surgery is usually estimated at 12-15 months, and at this point Cobb is clearly more comfortable sticking to the latter end of that timeline. It's far too early to place any certainties on his return, but if the Rays are in the midst of a playoff push, Cobb may try to accelerate his rehab to rejoin the team sooner.