The Chicago Tribune is reporting
that the Cubs have acquired LHP Neal Cotts
from the White Sox for RHP David Aardsma
and LHP Carlos Vasquez
The 26-year old Cotts attended Illinois State University, and was selected by the Oakland A's in the second round of the 2001 June Draft. He was traded to the White Sox four years ago in a multi-player deal where Keith Foulke
went to Oakland and Billy Koch
came to Chicago. Cotts has spent the last three seasons in the White Sox bullpen, and had (by far) his best year in the Sox World Series Championship season of 2005 (when he was virtually unhittable and probably one of the three best lefty relievers in baseball), but he struggled this past season. Cotts will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this off-season
A 25-year old hard-throwing right-handed reliever with a mid-90's fastball, Aardsma was the closer for the 2003 NCAA National Champion Rice University team, before being selected by the San Francisco Giants in the first round (22nd overall pick) of the '03 June Draft. "Aardvark" and Jerome Williams
were the two pitchers acquired by the Cubs from the Giants for LaTroy Hawkins
in May 2005.
The 23-year old Vasquez was a one-time member of the Cubs 40-man roster (2004-05) who underwent shoulder surgery in 2005 before returning to action as a LOOGY at AA this past season. Vasquez was eligible to be a six-year minor league FA on October 15th, but he signed a minor league contract with the Cubs for 2007. Vasquez is currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League, and will be eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the White Sox 40-man roster by next Monday.
Acquiring Cotts gives the Cubs three (possibly four) left-handers in their bullpen for 2007. Besides Cotts, the Cubs pen now features Scott Eyre
and Will Ohman
, and quite possibly Clay Rapada
(who has been the best reliever in the Arizona Fall,League). With the hassle Jim Hendry had negotiating a contract with Will Ohman last off-season, I would imagine Ohman (who once again will be eligible for salary arbitration) will now almost certainly be traded. That is, unless the Cubs intend to use Cotts as a rotation starter.
Prior to the 2004 season, Baseball America
had Cotts rated as the White Sox #3 prospect--and as a STARTING PITCHER, not as a reliever. Cotts was converted to a relief pitcher by the White Sox in 2004.