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Red Sox showing interest in Franklin Morales, Neal Cotts

February isn't when you expect the Sox to be adding real pieces to their roster, but with their bullpen low on lefties and a couple targets still available on the market, they might just have the chance for a late swoop.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox might not be completely done adding players just yet. According to Pete Abraham, the Red Sox are still on the lookout for some lefty bullpen help, wih Neal Cotts and Franklin Morales named as possible candidates:

While the Red Sox made huge improvements to their bullpen this offseason, there's no denying that it's a unit best equipped to take on righties. Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Carson Smith, and Junichi Tazawa are all righties, leaving the Red Sox with the following lefty relief options on the 40-man roster:

  • Roenis Elias, who has limited relief experience and might well be called on to help out in the rotation.
  • Edwin Escobar, who compiled a 4.97 ERA in the minor leagues last season.
  • Williams Jerez, who only converted to the mound in 2014.
  • Tommy Layne, who might be good enough to rely on, but still only managed a 3.97 ERA in 2015.
  • Robbie Ross Jr., likely Boston's best hope despite, again, a 2015 ERA in the high 3's.

Given that any lefty in a pen with Kimbrel, Uehara, Smith, and Tazawa can probably be used largely as a lefty specialist, we should expect to see some improvement from both Ross and Layne as their roles become more focused. Still, these names don't inspire that much confidence.

But are the proposed acquisitions any better? Neal Cotts managed a productive season in 2015, and was one of the game's most effective relievers in 2013. But he still holds a 3.96 ERA for his career, and had a rough 2014. He doesn't have any significant platoon splits, and struggles with control, which is usually a bit of a red flag for a guy who's being asked to come in for one, maybe two big outs.

Then there's Franklin Morales, who Red Sox fans know well. He has his moments of greatness! He had them here, in fact, particularly during that one stretch in 2012 where it looked like he might save the Red Sox rotation--and season, back when that was still a possibility--before the workload got to him and he broke. As a reliever, Morales had a successful season for the Royals in 2015 (which had our own Matt Collins convinced enough to take a chance on him) and comes with some nasty splits, holding lefties to a .210/.288/.326 line over his career. In that same career, of course, he has an ERA over 4.00 as a reliever. But if the Red Sox keep him out of at bats against righties, he might do more than just survive--he could actually thrive.

Cotts seems more like a redundancy pickup than anything else. The Red Sox would be doing little more than giving themselves one more shot to avoid going into completely uncharted territory and perhaps avoid a true disaster scenario where their only lefties are guys who haven't even succeeded at Triple-A yet, much less in Boston. He might be the type of player who could be signed to a minor league deal with an opt-out should he not make the squad out of spring training, but he wouldn't be worth much more.

Morales, on the other hand? He seems like the real deal. He's not the best pitcher out there by any stretch of the imagination, but when you take him out of Colorado, he's fine. In a situation like Boston has, where they can truly limit him to the innings where he should have the best chance at success, Morales might finally be able to establish his role in the majors in a way that he hasn't been able to over the course of his nine-year career.

The Sox shouldn't be bending over backward to sign him, but given that he's lasted on the market this long, they probably don't have to. They might need a major league deal, but that can be worked out, with the last spot or two in Boston's bullpen still not really set in stone. It's pretty late for the Sox to be making impactful moves, but this seems like the rare February swoop that could actually pay some very real dividends in the year to come.