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February 17, 2016

Rumor Roundup

Cotts' Contracts

by Daniel Rathman

Red Sox eyeing left-handed relievers
As the offseason winds down, teams stocking up on bullpen options qualifies as noteworthy news. Peter Abraham, who covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe, brought us a dose on Thursday, tweeting that Dave Dombrowski and his staff are in the market for a southpaw. Specifically, Abraham mentioned Neal Cotts and Franklin Morales as possibilities for the Red Sox, who are likely hoping that one of the veterans would accept a minor-league deal and come to camp as a non-roster invitee.

Cotts, who turns 36 in late March, split the 2015 season between the Brewers and the Twins, who acquired him from Milwaukee on August 21st. He pitched better for the Brew Crew than he did in Minnesota, tallying 49 strikeouts in 42 2/3 senior-circuit innings before fanning only nine in 13 2/3 frames after changing leagues. Cotts’ effectiveness against like-handed hitters was robust, however, evidenced by their .186/.243/.330 slash line in 109 plate appearances.

There is one drawback to employing Cotts as your LOOGY, though, particularly if you’re handing him the ball with a runner or two already on base. He was one of the very worst left-handers at holding runners last year, and dead-last among southpaw relievers in SRAA, one of the components of DRA, the advanced pitching metric Baseball Prospectus unveiled in April 2015. Sometime around the All-Star break, runners—or their teams’ advance scouts—realized they could rob Cotts blind, and he was charged with seven stolen bases in his last 25 1/3 innings on the hill. Only two major-league lefties, Scott Kazmir and the oft-mocked Jon Lester, finished with a more dismal SRAA than Cotts.

Morales, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2011-2013, had no such trouble with base-thieves last season; in fact, he and his battery-mates held foes without a steal in 62 1/3 frames. The former Royal was as effective as Cotts when taking on lefty-swingers overall, restricting them to a .192/.245/.313 triple-slash output, though he scuffled in September. This is Morales’ second straight late-winter job search, as he only signed with Kansas City last February 19th.

Manager John Farrell’s bullpen is imposing from the right side at present, featuring the three-headed monster of Carson Smith, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel in the late innings. Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne are the incumbent lefties, and the pitchers Cotts or Morales would seek to dethrone if one of them signs on to spend the spring in Fort Myers.

Rangers, Adrian Beltre bullish on extension talks
Sometimes, there’s no better source on the status of extension negotiations than the man steering them, and when it comes to Adrian Beltre, that man is Scott Boras. According to JP Morosi of FOX Sports, who was on a private phone call with Boras Monday, there is mutual interest between Beltre and the Rangers in working out a deal that will keep the third baseman in Texas beyond the 2016 season. While Boras has been known to drive a hard bargain, Morosi noted that he and general manager Jon Daniels previously negotiated Beltre’s ongoing six-year, $96 million pact with the Rangers, which has worked out well for both sides.

Beltre turns 37 on April 7th, but he’s proven surprisingly durable for a player in his late-30s, appearing in 143 games last year on the heels of a 148-game campaign in 2014 and a near-perfect 161-game slate in 2013. Nagging injuries limited his offensive output to a .287/.334/.453 triple-slash line—good for a .279 TAv, a 40-point drop from the previous year—but he remains a quality glove man and was a 3.3-WARP player in spite of the apparent regression. A healthy Beltre is still a well above-average third baseman, so it’s no surprise that the Rangers want to ride the wave until it breaks. While PECOTA doesn’t see a rebound, it does project another three-win season, with a .294 average, 24 homers, and a .291 TA.

There’s been no indication of the years and dollars at play in the talks. If Beltre hits the open market next winter, he could be viewed as the top option on the menu, vying for that position mainly with the Dodgers’ Justin Turner.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Adrian Beltre,  Neal Cotts

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