We’re inside seven weeks until Opening Day! We’re also just three days away from the official Brewers Pitchers & Catchers report date of Friday, February 20, but this series counts down to Opening Day. As such, we are 48 days away so let’s look at the player who’ll be wearing #48 in camp, newcomer…
Neal James Cotts is a 6’1″, left-handed pitcher originally from Illinois. 35 by Opening Day, Cotts was a second round draft pick by the Oakland Athletics out of Illinois State University back in the 2001 draft when he was 21 years old. Cotts pitched just two minor league seasons in Oakland’s system before becoming a player to be named later in the deal with the Chicago White Sox that brought Keith Foulke to the bay area.
Cotts made his big league debut in 2003 with the White Sox (just four games) and was a mainstay on the south side of Chicago for three more years. He would pitch in 56, 69, and 70 games respectively in his three full White Sox seasons.
Still a pre-free agency pitcher, Cotts was traded to the Windy City’s north side after the 2006 season. He pitched for the Cubs for parts of three seasons including 50 appearances in 2008. His time in Chicago came to an end on May 27, 2009 as he was optioned to the minors after posting an ERA of nearly 7.36 in 11.0 innings.
Following his demotion, Cotts ended up tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) which led him to Tommy John surgery on July 2, 2009. That off-season the Cubs non-tendered him.
The Pittsburgh Pirates would sign Cotts to a minor league contract less than a month after the Cubs let him walk, despite his still needing a few months minimum to come back from the Tommy John surgery. Then, as Cotts was firmly on the comeback trail, he injured his hip and would ultimately miss the entirety of the 2010 season, culminating in his release by the Pirates before the big league season was even over.
Cotts once again found an employer fairly quickly as the New York Yankees inked the now 30-year-old southpaw. That relationship would come to an end that same off-season though. It was just over one full year after that release when the Texas Rangers would take a chance on a quite possibly broken down player.
(I could relate more about this period in Cotts’ career, but the story has been written already by better writers than I. Here is a link to Ken Rosenthal’s piece from 2014 which goes through a bit of the timeline including quotes from Cotts and his agent, Joe Bick.)
He was slowed in his first season in the Rangers org with a strained lat muscle in camp and would only pitch in the minors for Texas in 2012. They resigned him to a minor league deal after that year, however, and would purchase his contract on May 21, 2013. Cotts earned the call-up, after posting a 0.78 ERA with a wonderful 42 strikeouts to just five walks in 23.0 innings pitched. Cotts was brilliant for Texas in 2013 as well, totaling a 1.11 ERA in 57.0 innings across 58 appearances. He struck out 65 and walked 18.
Last year, Cotts would maintain his health — he pitched in 73 games — but not as much of his effectiveness. His FIP from 2013 to 2014 was 2.17 versus 3.58, but his 2014 ERA was a rough 4.32 as he was the losing pitcher in nine decisions.
Cotts should factor in the bullpen from the time camp breaks for the Brewers. He was signed to a Major League contract by Milwaukee, after all. Despite some of the 2014 numbers, Cotts has proven that he’s still got the ability to pitch at the big league level. The Brewers award winning medical staff will hope to keep Cotts healthy, and a move back to the National League could be a good thing for the veteran as well.
At the end of the day though, Milwaukee has a competition brewing in their bullpen already. If Cotts isn’t performing, left-handedness and being owed $3 million won’t be enough to keep him on the roster. There are younger, cheaper guys who could certainly take the ball and do so happily.
Follow Neal on Twitter: @NealJames56
Catch up on the countdown!
- #50 – Mike Fiers
- #51 – Jonathan Broxton
- #52 – Jimmy Nelson
- #53 – Brandon Kintzler
- #54 – Michael Blazek
- #58 – Wei-Chung Wang
- #60 – Matt Clark
- #62 – Luis Sardiñas
- #63 – Brooks Hall
- #64 – Shane Peterson
- #65 – Yadiel Rivera
- #66 – Juan Centeno
- #67 – Nevin Ashley
- #68 – Ariel Peña
- #70-#75 – Matt Long, Adam Weisenburger, Cameron Garfield, Taylor Williams, Hobbs Johnson, Tyler Cravy
- #76 – Mike Strong
- #77 – David Goforth
- #78 – Taylor Jungmann
The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent left-handed reliever Neal Cotts to a one-year contract. The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.
To make room for Cotts on the 40-man roster, the team designated infielder/outfielder Elian Herrera for assignment.
Cotts, 34, went 2-9 with a 4.32 ERA and 2 saves in a career-high 73 relief appearances last season with the Texas Rangers. He owns a career record of 20-24 with a 4.05 ERA and 4 saves in 415 games (5 starts) with the White Sox (2003-06), Cubs (2007-09) and Rangers (2013-14).
Over the past two seasons, he is holding opponents to a .223 batting average with 128 strikeouts in just 123.2 innings pitched.
Cotts enjoyed his best Major League season just two years ago as he went 8-3 with a 1.11 ERA and 1 save in 58 relief appearances with Texas. His ERA in 2013 was the second lowest in the Major Leagues among relievers and marked the lowest by a reliever in Rangers franchise history. His win total that season tied for the most among Major League relievers, and opponents batted just .180.
A member of the 2005 world champion Chicago White Sox, Cotts appeared in each game of the 2005 World Series (4 games), earning the
victory Game 2 against Houston.
Not one to break many free agent signings, Tom Haudricourt just tweeted the following…
A source has confirmed that #Brewers indeed do have an agreement with LHP Neal Cotts. Don’t have the details.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 30, 2015
Neal Cotts is a left-handed reliever, and has pitched parts of nine seasons in the big leagues for both Chicago teams and, most recently, the Texas Rangers. He missed significant time following Tommy John surgery in 2009 and four hip surgeries which started in 2010.
Cotts will be 35 by Opening Day. As recently as 2013, he pitched to a 1.11 ERA in 57.0 IP. He struck out 65 that year. Last year was harder for Cotts. In 66.2 IP, Cotts wound up with a 4.32 ERA in 73 (!) appearances. He struck out 63 but tripled his home runs allowed from two to six.
Cotts reportedly made $2.2 million in 2014. If he signs a major league deal, you’d have to think he would come in right around there, hopefully lighter given his most recent campaign.
Notably, Cotts struggled against left-handed hitters in 2014, allowing a slash of .270/.337/.438, but he’s carried a reverse platoon split overall in his career anyway.
Haudricourt and Ken Rosenthal are now concurring that Cotts has passed his physical with the Brewers and that a deal is done.
Rosenthal checks back in with the money.
Cottsdeal with #Brewers is one year, $3M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2015
More than I would have liked to commit given the specifics, but not outlandish given the marketplace.
It us a major league deal which means that the Brewers will have to make a corresponding move to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Wayne Twitchell (’70)
Jim Colborn (’72-’76)
Mike Caldwell (’77-’84)
Tim Leary (’85)
Bryan Clutterbuck (’86, ’88-’89)
Ray Burris (’87)
Tom Edens (’90)
Julio Machado (’90-’91)
Carlos Maldonado (’93)
Joe Slusarski (’95)
Marshall Boze (’96)
Mark Davis (’97)
Brad Woodall (’98)
Steve Falteisek (’99)
Horacio Estrada (’00)
Mike DeJean (’01-’03)
Mike Crudale (’03)
Ben Ford (’04)
Pedro Liriano (’04)
Julio Santana (’05)
Jorge De La Rosa (’06)
Francisco Cordero (’06-’07)
Tim Dillard (’08-’09, ’11-’12)
Donovan Hand (’13)
Neal Cotts (’15)