The Athletics have traded right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton to the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations, according to an official announcement from the A’s (Twitter link). Cotton was designated for assignment on Wednesday. Acquiring Cotton leaves three open spots on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.
Cotton hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2017, thanks to a 2018 elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He returned to pitch in the minor leagues late this year, but struggled in 14 Triple-A games and didn’t make it back to the big leagues.
For the Cubs, Cotton represents a buy-low reclamation project who could pay off if he can make good on the upside that made him a promising prospect several years ago. A key part of the Athletics’ 2016 trade with the Dodgers involving Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, Cotton was viewed as a potential rotation cog thanks to an impressive minor league track record.
After a solid rookie showing with the Athletics in 2016, making five starts, Cotton was installed in the Opening Day starting rotation for 2017 and ultimately failed to match the numbers he posted the year before. He stumbled to a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts
It’ll be interesting to see if Cotton, now 27 years old and approaching two years removed from elbow surgery, will be given the chance to compete for a spot in the Cubs’ rotation, with Cole Hamels likely to depart in free agency. He’ll need to overtake Tyler Chatwood, Adbert Alzolay, and Alec Mills, all of whom were part-time starters last year. If not, Cotton could be deployed out of the bullpen as a multi-inning option; he made 15 appearances in relief in the minors last year. At the very least, he represents pitching depth for an organization that is otherwise lacking in that department.