The case for and against the Red Sox adding a lefty reliever

For major league teams, left-handed relievers are like crack.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Boston Red Sox were still in the market for a left-handed reliever just days before pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training. And a number of them are already down there.

The two names being discussed, according to The Boston Globe‘s Pete Abraham, are Neal Cotts and Franklin Morales. Yes, that Morales — Red Sox legend Franklin Morales.

Robbie Ross Jr. is expected to play a key role in the Red Sox bullpen this season.
Robbie Ross Jr. is expected to play a key role in the Red Sox bullpen this season.

It’s not so much the names as much as it is the concept. Do the Red Sox need another left-handed reliever? It is certainly an interesting topic for debate.

Right now, the Red Sox have Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne on their 40-man roster, both of whom are projected to crack the Opening Day Roster. Last year, both of them got lefties out.

Ross held them to a .649 OPS while Layne absolutely dominated them — holding lefties to a .455 OPS all season. Of course, Layne’s problem is that he is a LOOGY (lefty one out guy/left-handed specialist) — so his effectiveness is limited and Red Sox manager John Farrell really did not seem to get that last year.

Of course, depth is an issue — with two lefties whose careers with the organization are questionable — Edwin Escobar and Roenis Elias.

Escobar was a piece of the Jake Peavy trade and he is out of minor league options. So by default, he is in line for a spot in the big league bullpen. But he’s not really a strong candidate if his 6-13 record with a 4.98 ERA in a few AAA seasons is taken into consideration.

Elias was a piece of the Wade Miley trade and for nearly his entire career, he has been a starting pitcher. But in two MLB seasons, he has held lefties to a .635 OPS — making him an option for the bullpen — or at least a depth option if he is not fully comfortable with it yet.

Off topic, but here’s how Miley will be remembered in Red Sox nation.

OK. Back to the left-handed relieving situation…

Anthony Varvaro is another guy worth considering. He’s had some funky reverse splits throughout his career — so all indications are that the right-handed reliever can get lefties out. He’s held lefties to a .602 OPS. But he is not on the 40-man roster. But he is still in the organization. And there are a few DFA candidates on the 40 still — Escobar is one of them.

As for Cotts and Morales, both held lefties to about a .570 OPS last year. But righties hit them well — very well. Depth might be the strongest case for signing one of them. But it really does not seem like either should be signed if the demands are higher than a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite — which they probably would be.

Since neither of them really pitched well to righties, and Farrell would probably use them against righties, there would not be much sense in pooling resources into them — because they would not be effective outside of their regular role. That’s like cutting steak with a spoon…

The Red Sox have enough high profile right-handed relievers — and they have some guys who can get lefties out. There’s not much else they can ask for.

Chowdaheadz would love to hear your thoughts on this situation. Should the Red Sox add a reliever? Who should be the Red Sox go with in the bullpen? Should Manny Delcarmen’s number be retired? Anything you’ve got: comment below!

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