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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