An easy way to diagnosis the velocity of the news cycle is by how much discussion the signing of a blasé veteran creates. In Mark Kotsay’s case, too much talk for the product. The ever-trustworthy Ken Rosenthal suggests Kotsay and the Brewers are near an agreement for a one-year pact. The Brew Crew will have to remove someone from their full 40-man roster since the deal is of the major-league variety.
The 14-season veteran celebrated his 35th birthday over the winter, and brings all the gooey intangibles that managers love on the end of their benches. This would not be the first time Kotsay benefits from managerial infatuation, as his player comment in Baseball Prospectus 2010 caught the White Sox’s Ozzie Guillen in the act of pushing for his return late in the 2009 season. Kotsay’s voodoo appears to affect front offices too, as Tom Haudricourt passed along the Brewers’ desire for experience given their championship aspirations.
The Brewers know more about Kotsay’s qualitative value than any outsider could, but the quantitative value suggests he must be one heck of a clubhouse guy. A non-factor defensively because of age and prior injuries, Kotsay is limited to first base or the occasional venture into a corner outfield spot. Prince Fielder has appeared in an average of 159 games since becoming a regular, meaning that Kotsay’s most common action could be pinch-hitting.
To Kotsay’s credit, he can hit some right-handed pitching. Not enough to warrant platoon status, but he managed .258/.325/.407 last season, and could produce similar results in 2011. Kotsay went 0-for-25 last season against left-handed pitchers, and his best production against them over the last three seasons came in 2008 (.250/.290/.339), so Kotsay will face lefties only in his nightmares if new manager Ron Roenicke is as smart as he appears. Kotsay is not going to walk often or hit for much power, but he will put the bat on the ball and avoid strikeouts. One more item worth noting about Kotsay's 2010 season is his uncharacteristically low batting average on balls in play, although whether his is an indication of a slowed bat or random fluctuation is indeterminable at this time.
The Brewers struck gold twice over the last three seasons with similar signings. Gabe Kapler returned from coaching and retirement to hit .301/.340/.498 in 2008 and then Jim Edmonds came out of nowhere and mustered a .286/.350/.493 line before heading to the Reds in 2010. Because Kotsay is unlikely to replicate those success stories, expect this to be an inconsequential move forgotten well before the Brewers figure out their October plans.