Kotsay Signing Based on a Mirage

Ken Rosenthal reports that Mark Kotsay will be signing a major league deal with the Brewers.

God help me, I tried to think of something positive to say about this. It wouldn’t have bothered me if this was a minor league contract with a non-roster invite to spring training. I swear. I even said last week that I’d be fine with that.

But a major league contract? Taking up a spot on the (currently full) 40-man roster? You mean to tell me, Doug Melvin, that you’re going to have to DFA someone to make room for Kotsay, and in doing so you’re basically guaranteeing him a spot on the Opening Day roster? Am I allowed to give an “Ugh.” for a Melvin move post-Greinke?

The most irritating thing we’ll hear about Kotsay over the next few weeks is that he’s has a lifetime .312 batting average as a pinch-hitter. Considering he’s played 14 seasons, that sure sounds impressive on the surface, but it’s an empty number. In those 14 years, he’s had a grand total of 99 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. That’s about 1/6 of a single season.

Let’s say Carlos Gomez ends April hitting .312 this year. Would you be confident in describing him as a true-talent .312 hitter? Of course not. And it’s not any different with Kotsay’s so-called pinch-hitting skills.

There’s just as much there to suggest he’s merely gotten lucky — hello, .366 BABIP in those 99 PAs — as there is to say he’s got a knack for pinch-hitting. It’s simply not something that you can expect to be repeated on a year-to-year basis. A couple of examples: Kotsay was 4-for-12 in pinch-hitting opportunities last season. In 2009, he was 2-for-15 with 6 strikeouts and no walks in that role.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be making such a big deal about this if this wasn’t the only area in which he could possibly contribute. Yes, he’s played all three outfield spots before and even a little first base. It doesn’t mean he can actually play those positions at age 35. He absolutely shouldn’t be allowed to do so for a National League team.

The biggest problem I have with this move — other than the fact that it’s seemingly being based on something as trivial as pinch-hitting batting average — is that it’s likely going to be the end of either Brandon Boggs or Chris Dickerson. Dickerson’s shown an ability to actually play defense and get on base. Boggs has a career minor league line of .265/.376/.449. One of these guys is likely going to be cut loose just because they don’t have the experience that Kotsay does, despite being the better player. Even in such a meaningless move, that’s kind of depressing.

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