The Cleveland Indians have claimed left-handed pitcher Tim Cooney from the St. Louis Cardinals, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo is reporting. Cooney, 25, was put on waivers as part of the Cardinals’ roster shuffle to protect prospects from December’s Rule 5 draft.
Prior to the 2016 season, our Cardinals SB Nation sister site, Viva El Birdos, had Cooney as the organization’s fourth overall prospect with almost nothing but high praise for the young lefty.
What I like about Cooney is his ability to pitch at three distinct speeds, with a fastball at 89-90, both a cutter/slider and a changeup in the low 80s, and the curve in the low 70s. Given he can throw the change and his slider/cutter/whatever at the same speed, but with movement going in opposing directions, I think that's a combo that could be exploited for more value than he's perhaps gotten in the past. I like the cutter version better than the slider; when he throws the pitch harder and it breaks more laterally than vertically I think it's an effective weapon to attack right-handed hitters inside.
Even just looking at the comments on VEB’s post, and the Twitter reactions to the move, it’s clear a lot of Cardinal fans had high hopes for Cooney.
Cooney made his MLB debut in late April 2015, lasting just 2.1 innings and allowing three runs off of seven hits in a spot start. After a trip back down to Triple-A, he returned to five more starts throughout July. All in all, his first major-league season concluded with 29 strikeouts, 10 walks, and 11 earned runs in 31.1 innings.
Cooney’s 2015 season was cut short due to appendectomy following his July 24 start against the Atlanta Braves. He started 20 games between Triple-A and the MLB in 2015 and did not pitch at all in 2016 due to a lingering shoulder injury.
Cooney has pitched out of the bullpen just three times in his minor league career, but that may be his role with the Indians. Other than Andrew Miller, the Tribe do not have a reliable lefty coming out of the bullpen, so maybe they could be looking at him as a long-relief lefty in 2017 and into the future. But I also would not count him out of being in the running for a back-of-the-rotation spot if Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, or Danny Salazar do not look great out of spring training.
Get ready to hear this phrase with the Indians offseason additions (just like every offseason): This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Tribe.