Neal Cotts and Disappointment


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Back in November I posted two articles on the big league quality left-handed relief help. There were 12 relievers listed, including ex-Brewers Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny. More than half of those relievers are now signed with their 2015 teams, many on one-year deals.

In short, here’s the list, with the signees crossed off:

Zach Duke three years, $15 million, White Sox

Tom Gorzelanny one year, $1 million, Tigers

Scott Downs

minor league deal, Indians

Neal Cotts

one year, $3 million, Brewers

Joe Beimel

Craig Breslow

one year, $2 million, Red Sox

Joe Thatcher

Sean Burnett

Phil Coke

Josh Outman

one year, $925k, Braves

Andrew Miller

four years, $36 million

Franklin Morales

If you’re curious which player I least wanted the Brewers to sign, it’s the guy with the Brewers contract. See, I was hoping for a lefty specialist, or rather a pitcher that can consistently get lefty batters out in a jam. Given Duke’s contract, he was never a real option. Same for Miller, though I knew his contract would be a big one.

My big problem with this list is that the Brewers seem to have chosen the pitcher they needed the least. Tom Gorzelanny pitched sparingly last season, but was lights out and has experience as a swingman. He posts strong numbers versus lefties and knows the team.

Scott Downs had a poor 2014 season like Cotts and Breslow, but he’ll be 39 when the season starts, so he’ll have to earn his way onto the Indians roster in Spring Training. Downs has also absolutely shut down lefties in his career.

Joe Beimel is a big question mark, after a break out year in ERA (2.20) but not FIP (4.18). That said, he was great against lefties. Outman is a similar story. I imagine you understand the trend. With the exception of  Breslow, who has similar splits versus hitters of both handedness(es), just one pitcher lacked the ability to set down lefties at a high clip.

Neal Cotts’ career slash line versus righties is a respectable .237/.331/.372, while his slash line versus lefties is a less impressive .248/.324/.430. Reverse splits for lefties pitchers is not exceedingly common, yet Cotts has consistently performed better against righties throughout his career.

In fact, lefties hit Cotts hard enough last year (.775 OPS) that the Rangers may have kept him away from them.

It’s not so much that I think this is a bad signing. I think Cotts could be a decent reliever this year, and he has twice posted ERAs below 2.00, most recently in 2013 when he earned an impressive 1.11 ERA over 57 innings. I do, however, find the signing, and the handling of the bullpen in general this offseason, to be very disappointing.

Despite Kyle’s pleas, and a ton of salary room opening up in the 2016 season, the Brewers let money kill a potential trade for Jonathan Papelbon. The Brewers watched as Tom Gorzelanny signed for the stunningly low price of $1 million, a salary I can’t believe the Brewers didn’t attempt to beat out.

Of the one-year deals listed above, the Brewers paid the most for the player I believe they needed the least. For all of the faults that the above players have, be it poor performances in 2014, injury histories, or inflated FIPs, those guys are all, at the very least, pretty darn good against lefties.

If Cotts has a down year like he did last season, he’s basically just a below-average righty pitcher, and that’s not a typo. As far as his splits are concerned, Cotts might as well be a right-handed pitcher.

Again, Cotts was very effective very recently, and he has a chance to make me look foolish, but the general handling of the free agent bullpen market by the Brewers has been a disappointment. Hey, maybe Dontrelle Willis will save the day.