Francisco Liriano

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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Red Sox can still improve bullpen with these possible targets

Red Sox can still improve bullpen with these possible targets

Tuesday night's eighth-inning meltdown vs the lowly Marlins emphasized the Red Sox' need for bullpen help with October rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately, it appears to be slim pickings with most teams pulling their valuable arms (Rays' Sergio Romo would have been a good fit, for example) off revocable waivers. Still, there are some options that wouldn't cost the Red Sox an arm and a leg.

Yes, that's right, Dave Dombrowski can still at least attempt to fix the bullpen problem before it's too late. Friday marks the waiver trade deadline, so although Dombrowski and the Sox missed out on the chance to add an elite reliever before July 31, there's still hope to upgrade the scuffling 'pen before the calendar flips to September.

Here are the three most realistic options as of today. . .


Would it be the sexiest pickup? Absolutely not. Liriano's best days are far behind him as he's posted a 3-9 record and 4.82 ERA in 21 appearances with Detroit this year. But at this point, beggars really can't be choosers and Liriano is one of very few reasonable arms that have cleared waivers. He obviously wouldn't start unless it was on an emergency basis. Instead, he would be moved to the bullpen to take on a role he grew familiar with in Houston during the Astros' championship run: A veteran southpaw that can get left-handed hitters out.


The Nationals already showed they're in fire sale mode by trading Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and Matt Adams to the Cardinals. Next up could be veteran reliever Ryan Madson. Washington placed the 38-year-old on revocable waivers following his return from the disabled list. 

Madson is having a rough 2018 season (5.28 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in 49 appearances) but is a proven veteran with a postseason pedigree. The Red Sox probably would be better off adding a left-handed reliever, but they could do a lot worse than Madson.


Like Liriano, Gonzalez is a struggling starter the Red Sox could convert into a left-handed relief specialist for the remainder of the season. Of course, he's more than capable of filling a rotation spot if necessary. The 32-year-old, who actually finished sixth in NL Cy Young voting in 2017, has a 7-11 record and 4.35 ERA in 26 starts this year on a Nationals team that has been a major disappointment and, as I mentioned, have been sellers this month.

Gonzalez reportedly is drawing trade interest from several teams.


Clearly, there aren't many enticing options out there right now. The Red Sox failing to get bullpen help before the non-waiver deadline put them in a tough position, and there's a good chance they stand pat once again as Dombrowski and Alex Cora both have expressed their confidence in the current staff.

With two days remaining before the waiver deadline, there's time for more names to pop up on this list. But right this moment, these are about the only sensible options on the table.


How the A.L. East fared at the trade deadline


How the A.L. East fared at the trade deadline

Click here for the gallery.

SEATTLE -- The 2016 trade deadline is in the rearview mirror.
After all the talk, all the rumors, the dust has settled. In the American League East, three teams improved by making additions, while two others sold off.
A look at how the division was recast by the deadline and where the five teams stand:


The Red Sox were relatively quiet in the final few days, adding only lefty reliever Fernando Abad, who could be a useful bullpen piece.
The bulk of the Red Sox upgrades had come in the weeks before, when they landed a starter (Drew Pomeranz), another bullpen option (Brad Ziegler) and an experienced right-handed hitting infielder (Aaron Hill).
As Dave Dombrowski noted Monday, had the Sox shoe-horned all that activity into the 48 hours running up to Monday's deadline, the Sox moves would look more dramatic.
As it is, the Sox addressed every major need but one, failing to land a run-producing bat for left field. They hope that Andrew Benintendi, who joins the team Tuesday, leapfrogging from Double A, can provide a jolt in left.
Degree to which they improved: Significant.


The O's were hamstrung by two factors: they couldn't add a lot of salary to their payroll and they didn't have a deep inventory
of prospect from which to deal.
Dan Duquette did pick up Wade Miley, a back-end lefty starter, and re-acquired Steven Pearce from Tampa Bay, giving them a versatile player who mashes (1.212 OPS) against lefties.
What the Orioles didn't go, however, is land a front-of-the-rotation starter, someone who could team with Chris Tillman to give the O's two
top starters in their rotation.
Baltimore's rotation is ranked 26th in baseball with a 5.00. Miley isn't going to change that.
Degree to which they improved: Moderate.


Having emptied their farm system last summer to pick up David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays didn't have as much to offer teams this time around.
They got lefty starter Francisco Liriano from Pittsburgh and got pitching depth in Scott Feldman and Mike Bolsinger.
The idea is that Liriano will essentially replace Aaron Sanchez in the rotation, since the Jays are worried about Sanchez's workload and innings total. Feldman and Bolsinger provide depth in long relief.
Liriano resuscitated his career with the Pirates and could be a nice middle-of-the-rotation addition. And Sanchez will provide a dominant arm in the eighth inning to help set-up closer Roberto Osuna.
More than any team in the division, the Jays must hope that their key veterans in the everyday lineup -- Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion
and Jose Bautista -- stay healthy.
Degree to which they improved: Somewhat.


After years of resisting a rebuild, the Yankees finally succumbed to common sense this time and wisely moved two veterans headed for free agency (Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran), a controllable valuable bullpen asset (Andrew Miller) and a rather ordinary starter (Ivan Nova) who didn't fit in their future.
The Yankees aren't so far out of contention that they are absolutely out of the running for a playoff spot. But situated in fourth place in
their division, they did the right thing by selling off some big pieces.
In return, the Yanks replentished a farm system that had been set back by injuries and under-performance.
For a number of years, the Yankees stubbornly clung to the notion that they had to compete for a World Series every year, an impossible notion given the limits imposed by the last CBA. By smartly determining they  were highly unlikely to win this year, the Yanks took a huge step toward re-stocking their system for several seasons to come.
Degree to which they improved: Considerable -- a few seasons down the road.


The Rays have hit a wall. They haven't qualified for the postseason since 2013 and have't won a post-season series since 2008.

Their stadium situation continues to go unresolved and some of their recent top draft picks have underachieved.
The Rays were in full sell mode, dealing off lefty starter Matt Moore, along with platoon pieces Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce.
For Moore, the Rays got third baseman Matt Duffy from San Francisco and plan to return him to shortstop, his original position. The return on Pearce and Guyer featured mostly low--level prospects, years away from contributing.
To the degree than the Rays retained starters Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly, they continue to boast of a strong,
controllable rotation.
But it's hard to look at the Rays as an organization spinning its wheels.
Degree to which they improved: Somewhat in present, uncertain in the future.