The Milwaukee Brewers’ didn’t make many moves this offseason, but the one that was most puzzling to me was the signing of Neal Cotts. While many other more proven relief arms were signed to small, minor league contracts, the Brewers signed Cotts to a three million dollar deal. Coming off a rough season in 2014, I predict that Cotts will not end the season as a Brewer in 2015.
After a career year in 2013, in which he went 8-3 with a 1.11 ERA, he struggled mightily last season. Pitching on a team that was ravished with injury, Cotts went 2-9 with a 4.32 ERA.
This spring he has continued to struggle. Although he has pitched in just 5.1 innings, he has already walked six batters and allowed seven runs (six earned). He currently holds a 10.13 ERA. While spring training numbers are meaningless, this was not the type of spring that the Brewers’ or Cotts have hoped for. Because of his contract and his ability to be a left-handed option out of the bullpen he is almost certain to make the roster out of camp, but I don’t expect him to last long on the team.
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Not only is he not a shut-down option against lefties, but cheaper arms with more upside could become better options at some point out of the ‘pen. There are plenty of arms that are going to start the season in AAA that could provide value to the big league bullpen this season. One example of a strong arm that could be more useful is Ariel Pena. Pena has proven throughout his minor league career to have high strikeout ability. While he has struggled with command in his time in the minors, he has had an excellent spring. If he can continue to command the zone, he could become a much better middle relief option. Another young arm that could quickly become better Corey Knebel, a pitcher that I view as the team’s future closer. With overpowering stuff, he could find his up before season’s end.
Spring training numbers mean nothing, but the numbers that Cotts has been putting up are troubling. Even in innings that he has come away without allowing a run, he has had to work his way out of trouble. Cotts could enter the season and surprise like other arms have in the past, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It won’t be long before the Brewers’ eat his contract and simply move on.