Chicago Cubs: Cubs acquire low-risk arm in Jharel Cotton

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

While not a major move, the Chicago Cubs are looking to see if Jharel Cotton has anything left in the tank to serve as pitching depth.

It has been announced that the Chicago Cubs have acquired RHP Jharel Cotton from the Oakland A’s for cash consideration. Cotton was DFA’ed by the A’s back on the 20th of November. The 27-year old from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands had spent the 2019 season in the minors after missing all of 2018 to Tommy John’s recovery. His last MLB pitching appearance was in 2017.

Cotton came up through the Los Angeles Dodgers system back in 2012-2015 before being heading to Oakland in the Rich Hill deal in 2016. It was that year he made his MLB debut as he made five starts and pitched to a 2.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 3.76 FIP in 29 1/3 innings pitched. 2017 was not as kind to Cotton when he sported a 5.58 ERA, 1.4 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9 and 5.68 FIP in 24 starts. He had spent that year both in the majors and in the minors.

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It was March of 2018 when he would undergo Tommy John surgery. His rehab in 2019 saw him pitch on the A’s High A ball and Triple-A affiliates. It was coupled with more injury issues this time with hamstring issues. However, he was able to bounce back and pitch from that. The numbers were not pretty; a 7.16 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings between High A and Triple-A.

Reasons to take a flyer.

This is a pure low-risk, high-reward move. No other way to spin it. It either works or it does not and nothing is lost. It is understandable to look at this move and not see it materialize into anything. That can very well be the case but there are some things to consider.

Cotton’s main obstacle has been injury issues in the past few years. The numbers in the minors last year were in a pretty small sample size and rehab assignments number-one goal is to get back in shape. It does not always look pretty in the box score. If he can be healthy in spring ball he is well worth taking a good look at and seeing if there is any potential.

In his early days in the majors, Cotton threw his fastball in the 92-94 MPH range and coupled it with a cutter, sinker, change and curve. While not a huge strikeout guy in the majors, in the minors he is a career 10.2 K/9 pitcher. Last year in Triple-A he struck out 24 and walked 10 in 18 2/3 innings. While throwing a lot of groundball stuff, a majority of his batted balls are flyballs. 46.7% flyballs vs. 37.1% groundballs.

Overall he throws a nice range of stuff from sinking to offspeed. Back in 2016, his changeup was high highest rated pitch per Fangraphs pitch values. His change had caught the eyes of scouts in his early days. If he can just stay healthy then maybe it can all materialize. It is also worth noting he does have options still so he can work in the minors as well if necessary.

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There will be plenty of other low-risk, high rewards move to be made by the Chicago Cubs. It is good to take flyers on these guys because usually once a year one of them ends up being useful. Hopefully Cotton can be one of those guys because there is certainly some upside to him.