The Nationals bring in relievers like Cotts each offseason, buying low those with long résumés on a downward arc, hoping they can redirect those trajectories and find value. Matt Belisle, for example, was a late add to the Nationals spring training roster in 2016 after health and performance questions undermined his market value. Belisle remained in the majors all year.
Cotts is no lock to make — or even threaten to make — the big league roster, where Oliver Perez and Sammy Solis are entrenched as complementary lefties. But Manager Dusty Baker voiced a preference for having three lefties in his bullpen, if possible. Cotts will likely get enough chances in spring training to flash signs of revival and therefore make a case for a roster spot: The lanky lefty has made 50 or more appearances seven times in his career, which began with promise but devolved into injuries. Cotts underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 and had four hip surgeries a year later when a small tear became muddled in complications.
Two of his 50-appearance seasons came under the eye of now-Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux when Maddux held that job in Texas. One of them, the 2013 season, was among the best of Cotts’s career, as he pitched to a 1.11 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 57 innings.
Still, Cotts seems like an Opening Day roster long shot. He is more likely to serve as the kind of minor league depth the Nationals have called upon repeatedly over the years when injuries perforate their major league roster. He joins former Royals left-hander Tim Collins, former Giants right-hander Mike Broadway and former White Sox prospect Jacob Turner as intriguing nonroster invitees to spring training, which begins Feb. 14 in West Palm Beach, Fla.