Neal Cotts Rumors

NL Central Notes: Epstein, Morse, Jimenez, Brewers

Even with salaries for top executives continuing to rise, Theo Epstein is still a long-term fit for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago writes. “I am committed to the Cubs and could not be happier,” says Epstein, who is signed through 2016. “As for an extension, there are a lot more important things going on right now in the organization. We just haven’t gotten around to it. I am sure we will at an appropriate time.” Epstein’s Cubs are in good position to win a Wild Card spot, and he’s in the penultimate year of a five-year, $18.5MM contract. That’s a lot for an executive, but perhaps not for one with Epstein’s track record. Andrew Friedman’s contract with the Dodgers, for example, is almost twice as large, at $35MM.

Here’s more from the NL Central:

  • Michael Morse headed from the Marlins to the Dodgers and then on to Pittsburgh in an unusual series of transactions last month, but he’s happy to be with the Pirates, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com writes. “The Dodgers did me a great favor. They told me they had to designate me, but they said they would find a good place for me,” says Morse. “I’m happy to get an opportunity with a team headed in the right direction.” The Dodgers designated Morse for assignment after taking on his contract in the Mat Latos – Alex WoodHector Olivera trade, then shipped him to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jose Tabata. Morse is off to a good start with the Bucs, reaching base in 11 of his first 24 plate appearances.
  • The Brewers view the trade of Neal Cotts to the Twins as an indirect swap for Cesar Jimenez, tweets Tom Haudricourt of MLB.com. Milwaukee claimed Jimenez from the Phillies about half a day before dealing Cotts to Minnesota. GM Doug Melvin pointed to pointed out that Jimenez, 30, has two additional years of club control. The Brewers will at least receive cash from the Twins if not a player (tweet). The two players are actually reasonably comparable in all ways except major league experience. In 429 and 2/3 innings, Cotts has a 3.96 ERA, 8.63 K/9, and 3.96 BB/9. Jimenez isn’t too far off those rates with a 4.15 ERA, 6.27 K/9, and 3.93 BB/9 in 84 and 2/3 innings.
  • Melvin also discussed the possibility of additional waiver trades, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “My gut feeling is it’s probably tough,” says Melvin of further trading. Milwaukee has put about 20 players through waivers. In most cases, the claiming team doesn’t even engage in a trade discussion – they’re just blocking a deal to another club.

Twins Acquire Neal Cotts

The Twins have acquired lefty Neal Cotts from the Brewers, Milwaukee announced on Twitter. Milwaukee will receive a player to be named later or cash in the deal.

Minnesota was obviously the team that won the waiver claim for Cotts, as was reported earlier today. The 35-year-old bolsters a pen that was already struggling before an injury to closer Glen Perkins further reduced its depth. And Minnesota’s other two pen lefties — Brian Duensing and Ryan O’Rourke — have not been very effective.

Cotts has looked like a pure lefty specialist this year, holding opposing lefties to a .185/.230/.346 slash while being tagged to the tune of a .847 OPS by right-handed hitters. But he’s actually posted very neutral platoon splits over his career, and was significantly better against righties last season.

Adding Cotts to a club that remains in the Wild Card hunt will tack on $721K to the Minnesota payroll this year, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press calculates (Twitter link). For the Brewers, they’ll save that amount, pick up the PTBNL (or additional cash), and open a roster spot for the just-claimed Cesar Jimenez, who may well have been added with a deal in mind.


Unknown Team Claims Neal Cotts On Revocable Waivers

Brewers left-hander Neal Cotts has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unknown team, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Rosenthal notes that it seems unlikely Cotts made it through the National League.

Cotts, 35, is in the midst of a solid season with the Brewers, having pitched to a 3.28 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 49 1/3 innings. FIP paints a more pessimistic picture, although that mark is skewed by a fluky 17 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that is well out of line with Cotts’ career norms. Cotts has been highly effective against left-handed hitters in particular, limiting same-handed opponents to a .185/.230/.346 batting line and striking out 27 percent of them (24 of 89).

Somewhat coincidentally, Cotts was claimed on trade waivers nearly one year ago to the date — Aug. 20, 2014 — also by an unknown club. Ultimately, a trade did not occur, and Cotts hit the open market after his season with the Rangers ended. He would eventually land with Milwaukee on a one-year, $3MM contract, and he’s still owed about $754K of that sum. The Brewers will have 48.5 hours to work out a trade with Cotts, and if no deal is struck in that time, they can pull him back off waivers.

For a refresher on how the August trade process works, check out MLBTR’s August Trade primer.



Trade Market Notes: Papelbon, Indians, Cotts, Maybin

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon said today that he would be surprised and disappointed if he is not traded this summer, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. The veteran righty indicated that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for any contender — provided, that is, that he’d work in a closing capacity. “I think [the front office] knows where I’m at,” he said. “I’ve always been straightforward that I want to go play for a contender and I’m not going to shy away from it. I feel like that’s my right and my prerogative to have that opportunity and, you know, it’s in their hands. The ball’s in their court. I guess that’s kind of it.” While Papelbon’s preferences will play a significant role in his market, he’s done nothing but increase his trade value through his on-field performance this year. Entering today’s action, the 34-year-old owns a 1.65 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 — and a career-best 50.6% groundball rate — on the season.

  • The Indians are still alive for a post-season berth even though the club has underperformed expectations, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the club will probably stand pat for the most part at the trade deadline. Cleveland is not terribly interested in dealing away Carlos Santana, but could consider moving David Murphy or Ryan Raburn, both of whom have been quite productive this year and can be controlled through fairly reasonable 2016 options. In the event that the Indians decide to add pieces, says Rosenthal, the club could target a pen arm or a bat (at an unidentified position — the left side of the infield seeming most likely).
  • The Twins and Brewers have had some preliminary trade chats, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports (Twitter links). It is not clear precisely what players were under discussion, though Berardino indicates that Milwaukee lefty Neal Cotts could hold some appeal to Minnesota.
  • Some opposing clubs believe the Braves could be interested in selling high on outfielder Cameron Maybin this summer, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Olney had previously indicated on Twitter that Atlanta was not interested in parting with Maybin, who’s been quite a pleasant surprise since coming over as part of the salary swaps in the Craig Kimbrel deal. But he could have significant appeal to teams in need of an outfielder, particularly if the market ends up being largely devoid of bats.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Desmond, Toussaint, D-Backs, Samardzija, Cotts

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)

Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.

A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
  • A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
  • Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
  • The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
  • The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
  • The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.

Bullpen Notes: Cotts, Mujica, Brewers, Papelbon, K-Rod

Recent Brewers signee Neal Cotts tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he came close to hanging up his spikes before the Rangers offered him a deal for the 2013 season. After two fairly productive seasons in Texas, Cotts chose Milwaukee in part due to proximity to his home in Chicago.

Here are some notes on still-active bullpen situations around the game:

  • The Red Sox have indicated a willingness over the last few days to deal righty Edward Mujica, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Mujica, 30, signed a two-year deal to head to Boston last year after a strong 2013 with the Cardinals, but struggled mightily out of the gate. He rebounded with a big second half, however, throwing 25 1/3 innings of 1.78 ERA ball over the second half. All said, Mujica ended the year having allowed 3.90 earned per nine and having compiled a 3.70 FIP that was nearly identical to his fielding-independent mark from the season prior.
  • After adding Cotts, the Brewers will keep looking for a veteran, late-inning arm, potentially one with closing experience, assistant GM Gord Ash tells Haudricourt. The club is “juggling a lot of balls right now,” says Ash, who added that talks with the Phillies on Jonathan Papelbon are not dead even if nothing is imminent. Ash also indicated that the team was considering former closer Francisco Rodriguez, but noted that the club is not in on Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain. Milwaukee also seems to have its eye out for a bargain, with Ash noting that the club is open to doing a minor league deal at any time.
  • A few of the other names still on the market do have some interest even though they have yet to ink a contract, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). After a solid 2014, southpaw Joe Beimel has interest from three clubs, including the incumbent Mariners, while fellow lefty Joe Thatcher has drawn attention from a handful of teams.

Brewers Sign Neal Cotts

It’s been no secret that the Brewers were on the lookout for bullpen help, and they’ve added an arm to their relief corps, announcing the signing of left-hander Neal Cotts to a one-year contract today. The Pro Star Management client will reportedly receive a $3MM guarantee.

Cotts, 35 in March, comes with a lengthy injury history but has been healthy for the past two seasons and clearly showed he was healthy enough to pass Milwaukee’s physical.  Between Tommy John surgery and four surgeries on his right hip, Cotts missed three full seasons from 2010-12 before re-emerging with the Rangers in 2013.  Upon returning to the mound, Cotts delivered a 2.84 ERA, 3.12 K/BB rate and 9.3 K/9 over 123 2/3 innings and 131 appearances out of the Texas bullpen over the last two seasons.

The Brewers have been focused on bullpen additions in recent weeks, and they’ve been rumored to be exploring options like trading for Jonathan Papelbon, signing Rafael Soriano or re-signing former closer Francisco Rodriguez.  With only four career saves, of course, Cotts doesn’t project to be Milwaukee’s ninth-inning answer and looks to be in line for more of a setup role.  Cotts is also something of a reverse-splits pitcher (left-handed batters have a career .753 OPS against him, while righty batters have only a .703 OPS) so he doesn’t fit the usual mold of a lefty specialist.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the agreement (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted the financial details.


Pitching Notes: Shields, Albers, Cotts, Gee

In his latest piece on the market for James Shields, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at the most recent significant contracts for starting pitchers of age 33 or older and points out that history is not on Shields’ side. MLBTR took a similar look at Shields in Spring Training of last year, noting that recent history suggested it’d be difficult to find a team willing to guarantee his age-37 season. Rosenthal notes that executives to whom he has spoken cite Shields’ age, innings backlog, declining strikeout rate and shaky postseason track record as negatives. At this point, Rosenthal feels a four-year deal worth less than $20MM annually is likely.

A few more pitching notes from around the league…

  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins were informed yesterday of a Feb. 10 showcase for right-hander Matt Albers in Houston (Twitter link). All teams are invited to watch Albers throw, of course, and Wolfson does note that the Twins are open to adding a bullpen arm. A shoulder injury limited Albers to just eight appearances with the Astros in 2014, but he does have a pristine 2.63 ERA over his past 133 1/3 big league innings (three seasons’ worth of work).
  • While it’s been previously written that the Rangers expect Neal Cotts to sign elsewhere, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram now reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers have been officially informed that the 34-year-old lefty will sign with a different team this offseason. Cotts wasn’t able to replicate his exceptional 1.11 ERA from his 2013 comeback, but he did post a 4.32 ERA with solid peripheral stats in 2014 (8.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 3.58 FIP, 3.41 SIERA).
  • The Mets still aren’t close to trading Dillon Gee, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, nor are they close to dealing any of their other potentially available starters (presumably referring to Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon). However, as DiComo notes, that type of situation can change quickly in the three weeks leading up to Spring Training, and of course, a deal could always be negotiated in Spring Training as well.

Quick Hits: Marlins, Reds, White Sox, Rangers

The Marlins‘ offseason moves position them for a “measured buildup,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Mat Latos has just one year of control remaining, while Martin Prado and Michael Morse have two. And even the post-opt-out portion of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract is structured so that the Marlins will be able to afford it once they renegotiate their TV deal. This isn’t like the 2011-2012 offseason, when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to long-term deals, only to trade all three. For that reason, Rosenthal writes, the Marlins are unlikely to sign James Shields to a big contract, even though they’ve been connected to him lately. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.

  • After Ichiro Suzuki plays his first game with the Marlins, the Reds will be the last team that hasn’t had a Japanese-born player, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Reds did express interest in Nori Aoki this offseason, but they don’t have a strong presence in Japan (although Rosecrans notes that the Reds aren’t the only team that doesn’t). “We do have some people who do cross checking. We don’t have a scout in Japan,” said GM Walt Jocketty. “It’s too costly.”
  • The White Sox signed closer David Robertson for four years and $46MM, but GM Rick Hahn says they weren’t the highest bidder for his services, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes tweets. It’s unclear who the top bidder might have been, although the Blue Jays and Astros were connected to Robertson this offseason.
  • GM Jon Daniels said today at Rangers Fan Fest that the team is unlikely to trade for Josh Hamilton, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers reportedly discussed a Hamilton deal with the Angels earlier this offseason, although those talks were not in-depth. Also, free agent lefty reliever Neal Cotts is not likely to re-sign with the Rangers, Andro tweets.

NL East Rumors: Mets, Coke, Breslow, Detwiler

The latest batch of rumors out of the National League East..

  • The Mets have had preliminary contact with free agent reliever Phil Coke, but there have been no substantive discussions yet, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • The Mets have cast a wide net on lefty relievers but at this time nothing is close and no one in that group stands out, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter).  He also hears that the Mets are not engaged with Coke.
  • The Mets met with the reps for Neal Cotts and Craig Breslow, but neither appear to be likely options, according to Carig (via Twitter).
  • The Nationals are also open to moving Ross Detwiler to teams that value him as a starter and, therefore, would give them more in return, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.