Houston Astros sign Neal Cotts to minor league contract
By Cody Poage
The Houston Astros were in the market for another left-handed reliever.
Lo and behold, it looks they may have found their man earlier this morning! Left-handed reliever Neal Cotts, formerly of the Chicago White Sox back in the day, has signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros.
Cotts, who is entering his age-36 season, pitched last season with the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins. The left-hander finished the 2015 season with a 3.41 ERA/5.00 FIP and 58 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. The question now is whether he has a chance to make the 25-man roster. Or could he potentially be a pitcher that the Astros could leave in Fresno till he is needed?
Per Brian McTaggert of MLB.com:
"According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Cotts will earn $1.5 million if he lands on the Major League roster, plus $1.25 million in incentives. The reliever can request his release if he’s not on the roster on March 26 or June 1."
So the odds are that Cotts won’t be an arm that the Astros could stash away in the minors as an insurance policy. But the team does have a legitimate need for another quality left-hander in the bullpen to go along with Tony Sipp. Besides Sipp, Kevin Chapman is the only left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster. Former Astro, Wandy Rodriguez, and offseason signee, Edwar Cabrera, are the other left-handers being considered for a bullpen role. But Cotts will be given every opportunity to win the job when he reports to camp tomorrow.
Next: Astros Need Some More Balance of Lefties in the Lineup
However, the Astros bullpen appears to be mostly set with Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Pat Neshek, Josh Fields, and Sipp. It is within the realm of possibility that the Astros only carry one left-hander in the bullpen with Sipp, but considering his effectiveness against right-handers then the team may be wise to make room for another left-hander. Regardless, the Astros have plenty of options to go with for the 2016 season and this type of competition for the bullpen is great for the club. And like the old saying goes, “You can never have too much pitching!”
**Statistics are provided by Fangraphs**