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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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How Chris Sale was able to have Tommy John surgery amid coronavirus shutdown

How Chris Sale was able to have Tommy John surgery amid coronavirus shutdown

In a vacuum, it was a standard announcement from the Boston Red Sox on Monday.

"Left-handed pitcher Chris Sale today underwent successful left UCL reconstruction ('Tommy John surgery,')" the team's statement read. "The procedure was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, CA."

But when you consider the circumstances -- that California is under a state-wide shelter-in-place order amid the global coronavirus pandemic -- it's pretty remarkable that Sale walked into a medical facility to undergo a non-essential operation.

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So, how did Sale and the Red Sox pull this off?

According to Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, the team had plenty of internal debate before Sale flew to California on Monday.

"It was important to all of us to do this in a way that would not place any undue burden on anyone suffering due to coronavirus,” Bloom said Monday night in a conference call, via's Chris Cotillo.

"I spoke to Dr. ElAttrache personally to make sure that was the case here and he is just as mindful of the considerations that go along with surgery at a time like this. ... We know this is not life and death and that there are people who are suffering in situations that are life and death."

Los Angeles County (where Sale had his surgery) recently issued a memo recommending all elective surgeries be "limited" until further notice. But the memo didn't explicitly ban such operations, and ElAttrache is of the belief that they're borderline essential for top pitchers like Sale.

"I know that I’m going to get criticized for taking care of these kinds of guys, but it’s essential to their livelihoods," ElAttrache told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. "If you have somebody’s career at stake and they lose two seasons instead of one, I would say that is not a nonessential or unimportant elective procedure."

While ElAttrache's shop is still open, others are already shut down: Orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews recently announced he's suspending all Tommy John surgeries at his Florida clinic amid the pandemic.

The Red Sox revealed Sale would need surgery back on March 19 and didn't provide any updates until after Sale's operation Monday. So, why the delay?

Bloom told the reporters the team was working out logistics and making sure it was safe for Sale to go under the knife.

"I think under normal circumstances, we might have been able to have it happen a little bit sooner,” Bloom said. "Obviously, we’re still talking about a relatively short timetable. There’s usually a lag of a few days at a minimum to get something like this done, even in normal times. It was a little longer in this case just because of all the considerations that I discussed."

Sale faces a 14- to 15-month recovery that should sideline him until at least June 2021. But the 31-year-old likely is grateful he was able to have the operation at all before the pandemic worsens in the United States, which already has the most confirmed coronavirus cases than any country in the world.

Chaim Bloom estimates when Chris Sale could return from Tommy John surgery

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Chaim Bloom estimates when Chris Sale could return from Tommy John surgery

Chris Sale turned 31 on Monday. He also had Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow on that same day. The procedure will sideline him for at least the rest of the 2020 season and beyond. 

But when exactly can we expect Sale back? Boston Red Sox chief of baseball operations, Chaim Bloom, wouldn't confirm to an exact date, but he did provide some insight into how long Sale might be sidelined.

"We don't know exactly," Bloom said, per Christopher Smith of "Typically you see around that 14-15 month range."

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Okay, so maybe that's not the most specific answer, but it at least gives us a ballpark idea of when Sale could return.

A 14-15 month recovery period would have Sale return sometime between early June and early July in 2021, if his recovery goes well. Of course, there are so many variables to take into account about how Sale may be progressing but also about how the Sox may be faring. If they aren't doing well, the team could take an extremely cautious approach with Sale in hopes of having him fully healthy for the 2022 season.

But Bloom's estimate at least gives Sox fans an initial target for Sale's potential return. The target date will certainly be fluid especially considering that some pitchers take 18 months to return from the surgery.

But no matter what, Sale won't be suiting up for the Red Sox until mid-2021 at the earliest. And that's bad news for the squad considering their lack of starting pitching depth.