Newly-acquired righty Jharel Cotton was among the on-the-fence tender decisions today, not necessarily because of his expected contract being TOO egregiously high, but instead because the Cubs had likely acquired him in the first place knowing that they wanted to sign him today to a favorable deal. If they couldn’t get it done, they might just let him go.
But they did get it done:
#Cubs reach one-year agreement with RHP Jharel Cotton for $640K, per source.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 2, 2019
Cotton, who is coming off multiple injuries and only barely pitched in the minor leagues last year, was projected by MLBTR to get $800,000 in arbitration, so it looks like Cotton accepted a deal in hand rather than risk much less after a non-tender.
We wrote up the buy-low shot the Cubs are taking in Cotton, who has minor league options and can continue his physical comeback at AAA Iowa to open the season:
[T]he background on Cotton goes something like this: a heavily-scouted arm who was drafted twice, Cotton eventually signed with the Dodgers and reached AA in his first full professional season in 2013. From there, he had a pretty steady ascent up the prospecting ladder, and he was generally considered a back-end top 100 prospect by the end of 2016, the year he was traded to the A’s as a key part of the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick deadline package.
You wouldn’t really be too dissuaded by his rough 2017 season with the A’s – he was a rookie, given a job in the rotation right out of the gate, and he had some really nice starts that year interspersed with utter disasters. Kinda what you might expect for a talented rookie. Hopes were still very high for him heading into 2018 when his elbow popped. A hamstring setback later, and suddenly he was out of the big leagues for two straight years and that was that.
When he’s healthy and right, Cotton can pair a good mid-90s fastball with an elite changeup, hence his gaudy strikeout rates in the minor leagues. Finding that good and consistently usable third pitch was the hump he didn’t quite clear before the injuries – he also throws a cutter and a curveball. He also had lost some of the minor league velocity in 2017 (he was sitting 93 mph), which makes you wonder about when the elbow issues actually started.
If he gets healthy and even if the third pitch never comes along, you could plausibly dream on a nice fastball/change reliever, especially if the velocity plays back up in relief. But, your reminder is that it’s unlikely. Reasonable to be excited about the possibility? Sure. But the context remains: unlikely.
For just a bit above the big league minimum, the Cubs get a nice lottery tick. (It’s also possible, though not yet reported, that the Cubs negotiated a split rate deal, and Cotton makes something less than the $640K when he’s in the minors.