Recapping Kottaras to A’s (Plus a Brief Retrospective)

Kottaras

After trading Zack Greinke to the Angels on Friday, the Brewers made a second move early Sunday morning, sending catcher George Kottaras to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-hander Fautino De Los Santos. Kottaras, whose services were no longer needed with the return of Jonathan Lucroy and the surprising emergence of Martin Maldonado, was designated for assignment on Thursday; by Saturday afternoon, it was reported that the Brewers and A’s had a deal for him, with word that de los Santos was headed for Milwaukee coming about 12 hours later.

De Los Santos is a right-handed reliever that is interesting if nothing else. The 26-year old  was once a top prospect due to his upper 90s fastball, but has struggled to refine his command since then. In AAA this year (he had a brief stint with the big-league club), his strikeout and walk rates are crazy high, as they have been for most of his career – 11.61 and 4.59 per nine innings, respectively.

His stuff is pretty much what you’d expect from that kind of line. De los Santos averages 94-95 mph with his fastball, which he complements with a slider in the low-to-mid 80s, your classic power reliever’s repertoire.  For now, he will report to Nashville, but the way things are going, he could easily find himself in Milwaukee soon. De los Santos is out of options next year and will have to join the big league club or get exposed to waivers. With his command, it’s hard to see Ron Roenicke trusting him with a significant role (Well, under normal circumstances at least. All it would take for him right now is one good inning.), but he still has the potential to bust out a crazy relief season if he can get it under control. At this stage in his career, that’s not especially likely to happen, but the most successful bullpens are often created by rounding up enough of these type of guys and seeing who stands out.

Since being acquired off the scrap heap after the 2009 season, Kottaras put in three solid years as a backup catcher for the Crew, providing good offense for the position while developing a near-cult following due to his Three True Outcomes prowess and Greek ancestry. In his three seasons with the Brewers, Kottaras posted wOBA’s of .311, .330, and .352, during which the league average for catchers was around .310. However, his batting averages for those years were .203, .252, and .209. Kottaras’ power and patience endeared him to many fans who were sick of watching Jason Kendall slug .305, as well as hardcore TTO devotees who were still waiting for the second (or third) coming of Russell Branyan to descend upon Milwaukee, even leading to the creation of a new, but short-lived internet meme.

All elements of offense considered, Kottaras was actually a very good hitter – for a catcher, at least. His defense (he has never thrown out more than 20% of opposing basestealers in the majors) has fallen short of what most teams would want for a full-time receiver, which has limited his role with the Brewers to some degree. Still, had he washed up in an organization that didn’t have Jonathan Lucroy, it’s possible that he would be somebody’s second-division starter. At this point, the storyline of a minor-league slugger/sabermetric darling not getting his “fair shot” is tired at best and blatantly untrue at worst, but seriously, Kottaras had to spend a month in Nashville last year because the Brewers were playing Wil Nieves instead. Wil Nieves!

When Kottaras was DFA’d, Doug Melvin emphasized that he would get him a big-league job somewhere, and it looks like Oakland will be a nice fit. The A’s haven’t gotten much offense from their catchers this year – starter Kurt Suzuki’s OPS stands at a painful .524, and rookie Derek Norris hasn’t done much better in limited duty  – and Kottaras may be able to, at least on a part-time or platoon basis, help out a club that desperately could use a bat at the position.

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