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MLB trade deadline: 10 middle relievers Red Sox could target

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MLB trade deadline: 10 middle relievers Red Sox could target

With the closer market proving to be expensive — the Mets reportedly want outfielder Andrew Benintendi for right-hander Edwin Diaz — the Red Sox appear to be shifting their focus to the next line of reinforcements by targeting multiple arms in middle relief.

It's an approach that makes sense, since a case can be made that bullpen depth is just as pressing a need as a last line of defense. If that's the case, whom might they target? Here are 10 relievers on second-division clubs who will draw interest.

1. Amir Garrett, LHP, Reds

The 27-year-old has broken out this season, posting a 1.80 ERA while striking out 13.5 per nine innings. The former St. John's basketball player owns one of the most dominant sliders in the game, a sweeping offering with late downward movement. He's also got some Dennis Eckersley in him when it comes to post-strikeout celebrations, and who doesn't love a little personality? With four more years of team control, he won't come cheap, but he might be the best middle man on the market.

2. Nick Anderson, RHP, Marlins

With Sergio Romo being shipped to the Twins, Anderson is expected to assume closer duties in Miami. The 29-year-old rookie seems tailor-made for a Red Sox bullpen that already includes tall fastball-curveball specialists in Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman. He throws 96-98 mph with a hammer curve, the combo producing 69 strikeouts in only 43.2 innings.

3. Seth Lugo, RHP, Mets

Lugo seems like a Dombrowski kind of acquisition. The 29-year-old is under team control through 2022 and he's in the midst of a strong season, going 4-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 11.9 strikeouts per nine. Another fastball-curveball pitcher, he pairs a rising 97 mph fastball with one of the biggest-breaking curves in the game. Like Anderson, he'd fit the Red Sox model.

4. Scott Oberg, RHP, Rockies

You want succeeding in adverse conditions? Try posting a 1.62 ERA in the thin air of Colorado. The Tewksbury native and UConn grad is 5-1 in 43 appearances, and he has done it with a traditional power arsenal of a 95-mph fastball and filthy 86-mph slider. He's also got at least one high-leverage appearance under his belt, striking out all four Cubs he faced in extra innings to win last year's wild card game, 2-1. The 29-year-old remains under team control through 2021.

5. Joe Jimenez, RHP, Tigers

Another pitcher with a mediocre ERA (5.05), but good strikeout numbers (12.7/9). The 24-year-old boasts a 96-mph fastball that hits 99, and he's familiar to Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who signed him as an amateur free agent in 2013, and manager Alex Cora, who selected him for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

6. Mychal Givens, RHP, Orioles

Baltimore's closer hasn't posted great numbers this year (1-5, 4.54), but since the start of June he's limiting opponents to a .156 average. He could have a little Heath Hembree in him — when he throws his 95-mph fastball, opponents are hitting only .208, but when he throws a slider, they're slugging almost .600. The 29-year-old can't become a free agent until 2022.

7. Jose LeClerc, RHP, Rangers

The Rangers have used the versatile 25-year-old as an opener, middle man, and closer this season. He features a 97-mph fastball and a hard-to-classify changeup/splitter hybrid that made him one of the best relievers in baseball last year en route to a 1.56 ERA. He's at 4.34 this year, but with 72 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

8. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds

The 26-year-old is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA while averaging a career-high 12.2 strikeouts per nine. Walks and fastball command plagued him early in his career, but he has become much more effective by making his slider his primary offering. Opponents are hitting just .133 against it, while his 95-mph fastball has been tattooed to the tune of a .339 average and hideous .732 slugging percentage.

9. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Diamondbacks

Chafin's main offering is a slider that has limited opponents to a .145 average. He complements it with a 94-mph fastball. He's 0-2 with a 4.21 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 36.1 innings and would be a low-cost option for someone looking to deal with the Diamondbacks, who intend to sell.

10. Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pirates

The former Rookie of the Year, All-Star, and Cy Young candidate has experienced a renaissance at age 35. He's 4-2 with a 3.06 ERA, though his peripherals (4.51 FIP, 4.5 BB/9) suggest he could be due for some regression. Still, he's experienced and cheap.

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In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

I hate them all.

MLB's owners, with their bad-faith labor proposals designed to make the players look greedy so they'll have someone to blame if the season can't be salvaged. The players, who are too stupid and undisciplined to decline the bait.

The billionaire owners, for crying poor and refusing to pay their minor leaguers. The millionaire players, for treating every offer like an insult to be doused in urine.

The owners, for using a pandemic to ram through a series of long-sought changes to the draft, the minor leagues, and maybe even a salary cap. The players, for failing to recognize the need to stop swinging the gold-plated Boras Corp. hammer of public messaging they typically wield like Thor.

I hate it, hate it, hate it. All of it.

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As we seek a return to normalcy, at least there's baseball to ground us in all of its infinite stupidity. While the NBA quietly negotiates a 16-team tournament with surprisingly little rancor, and the NHL announces that it will conduct a 24-team playoffs as soon as it is safe to do so, baseball and its players take turns poleaxing the sport in the face.

The owners started with a 50-50 revenue sharing model they were so certain was a nonstarter, they never even officially offered it to the players. They did leak it far and wide, however, which led to inevitable pushback from union boss Tony Clark, who sniffed that it was a blatant attempt to install a salary cap, which the players will never accept, certainly not with CBA negotiations looming next year.

Cue the predictable bemoaning of baseball's out-of-touch millionaire class, which is exactly what the owners wanted. They're skillfully waging asymmetrical warfare, since they need to shut only 30 mouths to close ranks. There are 900 players, though, and it only takes one of them swallowing his leg above the knee to sway public opinion.

Enter Rays lefty Blake Snell, a Twitch streamer depressingly short on brain matter who announced to his followers that, "I gotta get my money," in a tone-deaf rant last week that immediately overshadowed more nuanced discussions of health and safety from the likes of Andrew Miller, Chris Iannetta, and even Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. Snell apologized, but damage done.

It should come as little surprise that he then fired his agent and hired Boras.

Ahhh, Boras. In normal times, he's unfairly maligned for securing monster deals. No one forced the Padres to fork over $300 million to Manny Machado, for instance. Boras is the best in the business and someone we'd all want on our side in a negotiation.

In normal times, anyway. But now?

If there's anyone who needs to stand down in the midst of a messaging battle, it's the man many fans consider the sport's avatar of avarice. "You don't privatize the gains and socialize the losses," might be an accurate appraisal of MLB's initial proposal, but it's not a sentiment anyone wants to hear from the man who just negotiated over $1 billion worth of contracts this winter.

Spending all this time focusing on Boras and the MLBPA, however, plays right into the hands of the owners. Their latest proposal, which calls for a sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave the lowest earners making most of their prorated salaries and the highest earners staring at cuts of $30 million (sorry, Mike Trout), feels designed to provoke another round of public whining.

That means they're still more concerned with PR than actually saving their game, and once you view their actions solely through the lens of assigning blame, it becomes clear how cynical their attempts at resuming play really are. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a faction willing to blow up the season to gain massive leverage when the CBA expires in 2021. These guys didn't become billionaires by playing nice.

We're already hearing about furloughs and pay cuts in the front offices of even storied franchises like the Cubs, and the A's just eliminated a $400/month stipend to their minor leaguers that ESPN's Jeff Passan estimated would've cost them only $1 million to maintain through August. The move feels as distasteful as whatever bubbles up through the drains in the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick. If the sides really want baseball to return by July 4, they'll need to reach an agreement sometime in the next 10 days in order to leave time to conduct a three-week spring training.

It's entirely possible the two sides are withholding their best offers until the 11th hour, and all of this posturing is just so much saber rattling before everyone finally acts in the game's best interests.

If that's the case, may I politely suggest they all go to hell? We've got our own problems at the moment, and picking a side in this loser battle ain't one of them.

Ron Roenicke recalls losing World Series from most painful vantage point imaginable

Ron Roenicke recalls losing World Series from most painful vantage point imaginable

Ron Roenicke sprinted towards second base and into the face of a human tidal wave that stopped him dead in his tracks. The magical run of the 1984 Padres was over.

Roenicke may not be the first player that comes to mind on a San Diego team that included Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey, and Goose Gossage.

But he was the last Padre to run the bases, affording him the relatively rare vantage point of watching a World Series celebration unfold at ground zero.

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We remember final outs of various Fall Classics for the reactions of the pitcher and catcher, whether it's Jesse Orosco tossing his glove joyously in 1986 or Jason Varitek jumping into the arms of Keith Foulke in 2004.

But what about the losing players, the ones who helplessly watch their dreams go up in smoke while engulfed in delirious bedlam? Roenicke knows that feeling, and he won't soon forget it.

He was on first base in Tiger Stadium when Tony Gwynn flied to left to complete Detroit's 8-4 win in 1984's clinching Game 5.

Tabbed to pinch run for fellow future manager Bruce Bochy, Roenicke raced halfway to second base before he saw not only the Tigers leaping from their dugout, but fans pouring onto the field to celebrate the city's first World Series title since 1968.

"I remember on the pop-up taking off running and then just seeing this mass of people coming on the field, and all I could think about was just get off the field and get in the dugout and try to be safe," Roenicke said earlier this offseason. "You're used to everything being in control on a baseball field and when the stands empty and it's chaos, it's a weird feeling like, 'What's going on?'"

Roenicke was lucky to be on the field at all. He opened the 1984 season without a team after being cut by the Mariners in spring training. He signed with the Padres on April 5 and spent most of the season at Triple A. Summoned on Sept. 1, he hit .300 in 12 games and figured his season was over, watching the Padres shock the Cubs in the NLCS, aided largely by Garvey's walk-off homer in Game 4.

Outfielder Kevin McReynolds injured his wrist during that series, however, opening a World Series roster spot. It went to Roenicke, a 28-year-old who had found himself in the opposite position just three years earlier, when an ankle sprain with a week to go cost him his job as the Dodgers' starting center fielder and sidelined him for the entire championship run.

"I jumped for the first base bag and blew up an ankle," Roenicke recalled. "I was still kind of involved in that one on the sidelines in the locker room and watching what was going on, but I wasn't on the field. Playing in '84, it meant something. You want to feel like you're involved and you're a piece of something."

Broadcaster Vin Scully recognized what that small moment meant for Roenicke, noting the juxtaposition with '81 and telling viewers, "So you see, fate has a way of evening up, I guess."

By the time Roenicke entered with one out, the Padres trailed 8-4 against a 104-win Tigers club that might've been the team of the decade. The unheralded Padres had already shocked the Cubs after losing the first two games of the NLCS, though, and never counted themselves out.

"We had a good team," Roenicke said. "I don't think anybody expected us to get through the Cubs. Sometimes when you're on a team that may not feel like the best team, but you win, it seems like you always think that something's going to happen, something good is going to happen."

Not this time. Alan Wiggins fouled to catcher Lance Parrish against MVP and Cy Young Award winner Willie Hernandez before Gwynn lined softly to left, opening the floodgates and leaving players on both sides fearing for their safety. Even Kirk Gibson, basically Mr. Tiger, had to throw fans off of him to reach the dugout.

"They won, so at least everyone's coming on the field happy," Roenicke said. "Then it got crazy on the bus. It was a mess. We showered up and we were waiting for escorts to the airport and they were having trouble.

There's a police car on fire, there's a cab that pulls up and the people are grabbing it and they end up taking the driver out and flipping the cab car over. It was pretty dangerous. And then the mounted police came in and just cleared the streets. And then our escort got to us and we got out of there.

Roenicke wouldn't reach a World Series again as a player, retiring in 1988 after an itinerant eight-year career. He added a ring as Angels third base coach in 2002, and another two years ago with the Red Sox as Alex Cora's bench coach.

In both cases, he joined the celebration on the field, which he much preferred to his experience in 1984.