As the trade deadline nears, we love to speculate about potential blockbuster moves. But sometimes the less heralded veterans make big impacts. And that is why San Diego Padres reserve Mark Kotsay – an experienced pinch hitter – is drawing interest from the Cincinnati Reds, among other clubs, according to major-league sources.
Kotsay is the perfect trade candidate, in that he earns a relatively low base salary ($1.25 million) and will be a free agent after this season. The irony is that the Padres value his leadership so much that they may decide to keep him, because of the effect he has on the rest of the club.
Kotsay, 36, spent only one season with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a reserve outfielder and first baseman who made many of his appearances off the bench. And yet he was integral to the Brewers’ division title last year.
Kotsay left Milwaukee to sign a one-year contract in San Diego, close to his home. He’s excelling in a similar role, batting .292 while filling in at the corner outfield spots and first base. And the clearest sign of Kotsay’s value might be in the words of a manager for whom he no longer plays.
“He was huge,” Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke said this week, reflecting on Kotsay’s contributions last year. “His personality was huge. And the experience he has – (Craig) Counsell was the same way – they had been to the playoffs before, they had been to the World Series. Veterans who know how to win, and know what it takes to win, and have the personality that rubs off on other players, are really hard to replace.
“We really miss Kotsay on this team. We’ve got a good bunch of guys. But we lost nine guys from that team last year, and a lot of those guys had playoff experience and knew what it took. … (With) Kotsay, to have a player on your bench who can go up against a setup man or closer and give you a good at-bat almost every time, you don’t find many guys like that. He can really hit. He understands what he needs to do.”
-- Jon Paul Morosi