Cubs Get Lefty Cotts For Two Arms

The last time the Cubs and White Sox made a trade, it worked out pretty well for the White Sox, who got John Garland from the North Siders in exchange for Matt Karchner.

The White Sox hope to win another deal they consummated with the Cubs on Thursday, when they shipped lefthander Neal Cotts across town for a pair of Cubs: righthander David Aardsma and lefthander Carlos Vasquez.

Cotts had been the Sox’ top lefty reliever on the 2005 World Series winner–when he posted a 1.94 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 60 innings–and might have been their best reliever overall. But he sandwiched that effort with 5.65 and 5.17 ERA seasons in 2004 and 2006. Not coincidentally, Cotts’ home runs allowed figures for 2004-06 read, 13, 1, 12. He’s 10-7, 4.52 with 169-100 strikeouts-walks in 193 big league innings.

The Athletics selected Cotts in the second round of the 2001 draft out of Illinois State, then traded him to the White Sox in the 2002 trade for Keith Foulke. Cotts, 26, had a huge 2003 season after joining the White Sox organization. He went 9-7, 2.16 with 133 strikeouts in 108 innings for Double-A Birmingham and started for the U.S. team in that July’s Futures Game.

Aardsma, the major league piece the White Sox obtained in the trade, spent most of 2006 with the Cubs, going 3-0, 4.08 in 53 innings. He was drafted 22nd overall by the Giants in 2003 out of Rice and pitched in 11 big league games the next year. Aardsma had joined the Cubs in 2005 with righthander Jerome Williams in exchange for LaTroy Hawkins. When his mechanics are right, Aardsma, 24, brings 93-97 mph heat and shows an above-average slider at times. His pie-thrower mechanics have at times short-circuited his command and his velocity, and he sat at 91-92 mph for most of 2005. The Giants briefly toyed with making Aardsma a starter–as did the Cubs when they first acquired him–but all but 11 of his 133 minor league appearances have been in relief. He’s 19-11, 3.18 with 190-96 strikeouts-walks in 207 minor league innings.

The outcome of this deal may hinge on Vasquez, the other pitcher acquired by the Sox. The 23-year-old lefty has touched 94 mph with his sinker, but usually pitches at 88-92. He also throws a slider. Vasquez, who was signed by out of Venezuela in 2000, had previously been on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, but was not taken in the Rule 5 draft once removed. He split 2006 between high Class A Daytona and Double-A West Tenn, going 6-5, 2.75 in 85 innings, all in relief. Vasquez had been used almost exclusively as a starter prior to 2006 and is 28-34, 3.61 with 362-188 strikeouts-walks in 444 minor league innings.

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