Neal Cotts Rumors

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.

Neal Cotts Staying With Rangers

Rangers left-hander Neal Cotts will not be traded, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  Cotts was recently claimed by an unknown club, giving the Rangers and this mystery team a 48.5-hour window to work out a trade.  Since no deal was worked out and Texas isn’t letting the claiming team take Cotts for nothing, it would appear that the veteran reliever will spend the rest of the season in Arlington.

Cotts, 34, has a 3.48 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.90 K/BB rate over 54 1/3 IP out of the Rangers’ bullpen this season.  It marks his second straight quality season with Texas (he had a 1.11 ERA over 57 IP in 2013), and Cotts’ performance is all the more impressive considering that he didn’t pitch at all in the majors from 2010-12 due to injury.  The southpaw will be a free agent this winter.

The Nationals were rumored to have interest in Cotts after the July 31st trade deadline had passed, though there’s no indication they were the team who claimed him.  It’s pretty unlikely that Cotts even reached the Nats given that every other team in baseball would’ve had to pass on the lefty before NL-leading Washington could’ve claimed him.


Neal Cotts Claimed On Revocable Waivers

Rangers left-hander Neal Cotts has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed club, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Cotts’ waiver period expired yesterday, according to the initial report which revealed that he was on waivers. Because teams have 48.5 hours to work out a trade from the point of a claim, it can be inferred that the Rangers will have until tomorrow afternoon to work out a trade to send Cotts to the claiming team.

The 34-year-old Cotts has been excellent once again this season, continuing a surprising resurgence after what was a three-year absence from the Major Leagues (from 2010-12). After posting a 1.11 ERA in 57 innings for Texas last season, Cotts has turned in a strong 3.48 mark with 9.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 this season. Already at 54 1/3 innings pitched, Cotts is on pace to top last season’s 57 innings handily. He’s set to hit free agency at season’s end, so it makes sense for the Rangers to explore a potential trade to receive some future value before he hits the open market.

A number of contending clubs have been on the lookout for bullpen help of late, including the Dodgers, Tigers, Royals and Pirates (it seems unlikely that Cotts would’ve made it to the NL, however). Cotts is earning $2.2MM in 2014, making him a highly affordable option for the final few weeks of the season. He’s owed roughly $493K through season’s end.


Andrus, Three Other Rangers Clear Waivers; Cotts Still On Wire

A group of high-profile Rangers players has cleared revocable waivers, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Ace Yu Darvish, star third baseman Adrian Beltre, young shortstop Elvis Andrus, and recent free agent-signee Shin-Soo Choo have all cleared. (Outfielder Alex Rios has already cleared waivers.) Meanwhile, lefty Neal Cotts is still on waivers, with his period set to expire tomorrow.

Of course, just because that set of big names has cleared names does not necessarily mean that other teams do not want them, let alone that they are likely to be dealt. As Heyman notes, even if a team was interested in adding Darvish or Beltre, placing a claim would start a clock that could well be too short to complete such a significant deal. In the case of Choo, his down year and massive contract made it quite unlikely that another team would want to take his contract.

Andrus, on the other hand, is a more interesting case. His eight-year, $120MM extension (which includes both opt-out and vesting option provisions) does not kick in until next year. The 25-year-old has struggled to take the next step at the plate, and owns a .271/.326/.337 batting line over the 2013-14 time frame. Though he is a productive fielder and baserunner, that batting line has limited his cumulative value over that period to 4.4 fWAR and 4.9 rWAR. While his name has been mentioned as a trade possibility, the contract would certainly be a major complication, and it is perhaps somewhat telling that he was left unclaimed.

Ultimately, Cotts seems the most likely to actually change hands. Executives tell Heyman that the setup man will likely be claimed, in which case Texas will have the option of working out a trade, allowing his contract to be assumed by the claiming team, or pulling him back. The 34-year-old is earning just $2.2MM this year and will be a free agent at season’s end, making some sort of transaction seem rather likely. Though he has taken a step back from a stellar 2013 (1.11 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9), Cotts has still been fairly productive this year. He owns a 3.54 ERA and 9.6 K/9 versus 3.4 BB/9 over 53 1/3 frames, with peripherals that suggest he has pitched slightly better. The veteran has actually been somewhat more effective against righties (.673 OPS) than lefties (.731 OPS) on the season.

As a reminder, you can check here for MLBTR’s updated list of players who have cleared revocable waivers.


Nationals Interested In Rangers’ Neal Cotts

Though the trade deadline has passed, the Nationals are still looking to bolster their left-handed relief corps and are considering Neal Cotts of the Rangers, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. The sides have had prior talks, but Texas has held out thus far for a better offer.

Washington expressed interest in players like Andrew Miller (then of the Red Sox, now of the Orioles) at the deadline, Ladson says, but did not pull the trigger. The club was unwilling to part with outfielder Steven Souza, who is now with the big league club and could be an important piece going forward. The Nationals have not received quite the production they hoped for from Jerry Blevins, who has been stellar against lefties but entirely ineffective against righties. And fellow lefty Ross Detwiler has improved, but still has not turned into the force that the club hoped he might be in a relief role.

Cotts is set to become a free agent and is playing on a fairly modest $2.2MM salary this year, which could make it tough for him to squeeze through waivers. (The Nationals, of course, would be behind the entire American League and all NL clubs with worse records in waiver priority.) The 34-year-old has not matched his stellar 2013 season (1.11 ERA), but has been effective enough with a 3.38 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 9.8 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. Cotts has actually posted reverse platoon splits, giving up a .261/.333/.412 line to same-handed hitters while holding righties to a .244/.317/.333 slash.


Quick Hits: Hahn, Royals, Luhnow, Cotts

The White Sox didn’t make any noise on deadline day but things could’ve been much different had a proposed three-team trade been finalized, GM Rick Hahn told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Sahadev Sharma).  The deal “would’ve wound up netting us such a [future] piece, a guy who’d been a target for a while,” Hahn said, though talks fizzled about two hours before the 3pm CT deadline.  While no trades were made, Hahn felt some progress was made in negotiations and “hopefully laid the groundwork for some future deals,” while also noting that the ChiSox will explore the August waiver wire for any possible moves.

Here are some items from around baseball as we wrap up an extremely busy week here at MLB Trade Rumors…

  • The Royals also didn’t make any moves yesterday as the team was seemingly hamstrung by an unwillingness to either trade its young players or (perhaps more pressingly) add payroll, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes.
  • The Astros were willing to discuss trading their young starters and indeed sent Jarred Cosart to Miami.  Beyond that, the club couldn’t find any satisfactory offers for Collin McHugh or Dallas Keuchel, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich and MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. “Probably Keuchel was the one that we received the most inquiries on…we weren’t willing to move Keuchel,” Luhnow said.  It seemed as if Luhnow cared for the McHugh offers even less, saying other teams apparently “felt like just because we picked him up off of waivers we might get rid of him for cheap.”
  • The Rangers have spoken with left-hander Neal Cotts about a new contract for next season, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Cotts earned $2.2MM in 2014, his final arbitration-eligible year, and he’ll be a free agent this winter.  Grant believes this new contract could “likely be a club-friendly deal.”  Given that Cotts is 34 and has a checkered injury history, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cotts look for security over a higher dollar figure.
  • Also from Grant’s piece, he notes that while the Rangers are suffering through a disastrous season, they could quickly rebound next year.
  • Looking at teams who did and didn’t make key moves, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists the 15 winners and eight losers of the trade deadline period.
  • Big TV contracts are seen as huge boosts to team revenues, yet as Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm observes, broadcaster disputes have left Padres, Astros and Dodgers fans unable to watch their teams play on local TV while the Nationals and Orioles seem poised for a major legal battle over MASN’s broadcasting fees.
  • The Tigers‘ acquisition of David Price drew all the headlines yesterday, but the team’s need for a left-handed reliever went unaddressed at the deadline, MLB.com’s Jason Beck points out.