Apr. 20: Cotton has cleared waivers and been assigned to Triple-A St. Paul, per Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Apr. 13: The Twins have selected the contract of right-hander Dereck Rodriguez and designated righty Jharel Cotton for assignment in a corresponding move, tweets Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Rodriguez, 29, will be making his debut for the team that originally selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, though he took a rather roundabout way to getting there. The son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, Dereck never got a big league look in seven years with Minnesota before becoming a minor league free agent and signing on with the Giants. He made his MLB debut with San Francisco in 2018 and enjoyed a brilliant rookie season before struggling immensely in 2019-20.
With the 2018 Giants, Rodriguez posted an out-of-the-blue 2.81 ERA in 118 1/3 innings. His 18.3% strikeout rate and 39.5% grounder rate were both well below the league average, but his 7.4% walk rate was strong. Fielding-independent marks weren’t as bullish on Rodriguez as his bottom-line ERA but generally felt he looked the part of at least a fourth/fifth starter.
Rodriguez unraveled in 2019, however, when opponents belted 21 home runs against him in just 99 innings, en route to a 5.64 ERA. His strikeout and walk rates trended in the wrong direction, and by 2020, Rodriguez received just four big league innings (allowing six runs on 10 hits, including two more homers) before being designated for assignment. The Tigers claimed him off waivers but didn’t put him on the mound in a big league game, and Rodriguez elected free agency after clearing waivers that November. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies last year but pitched to a 6.72 ERA in 22 Triple-A games.
Rodriguez returned to his original organization on a minor league contract this winter. He tossed a scoreless inning for the Twins during Spring Training and has gotten out to a nice start with the Saints, tossing four more shutout frames with a 5-to-2 K/BB ratio and 50% grounder rate in his lone start thus far. Rough showing from 2019-21 notwithstanding, Rodriguez has a career 4.27 ERA, a 17.1% strikeout rate and a 7.9% walk rate in 221 1/3 big league innings. He’ll be able to give the Twins some length in the bullpen and perhaps make a spot start if necessary.
As for the 30-year-old Cotton, he was an offseason waiver claim out of the Rangers organization who stuck on the 40-man roster through the winter and through Spring Training. Cotton held opponents to a pair of runs in seven Grapefruit League innings, but he walked five batters during that time and has seen his command woes continue. While Cotton has pitched a pair of scoreless frames for the Twins so far, he’s walked four of the 10 opponents he’s faced and also thrown a wild pitch.
A former top-100 prospect with the A’s, Cotton has tallied 191 innings over 54 big league games dating back to his 2016 debut, but he has a tepid 4.66 ERA to show for his efforts. His 19.4% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate and 35.5% ground-ball rate are all worse than the Major League average, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his fastball in his two innings so far is down considerably from last year’s 93.6 mph average. The Twins will have a week to trade Cotton, place him on outright waivers or release him.