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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 appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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