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Bullpen Options Dwindling For The Red Sox

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The Red Sox have accomplished much more this offseason than anyone expected.

They finally acquired Adrian Gonzalez and surprisingly signed Carl Crawford, much more than we all expected from Theo Epstein and ownership.  However, they have so far struck out on something they have stressed as their greatest need: getting the bullpen help they so desperately need.

The Red Sox appear to be very reluctant to offer any relief pitcher a three-year deal.  They have said, however, that they may be willing to offer a three-year deal to "elite relievers" on the market.  They have reportedly been looking at former Minnesota Twins relievers Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Brian Fuentes as their top targets.  All of these options they thought they could sign without guaranteeing that third year in a contract

Today, it hit them that they need to step up their pursuit.

Guerrier, who yesterday appeared to be the Red Sox' number one target, signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers today, inking a three-year deal.  Crain, the Red Sox' second target, signed with the White Sox for--yes, you guessed it--a three-year deal.

In just one day, it appears the Red Sox' bullpen target list has shifted around quite a bit.

Good news did come today as the Sox are reportedly in "serious negotiations" with former Rays reliever Dan Wheeler.  Wheeler posted a very impressive 3.35 ERA in 2010.  Even with Wheeler possibly on board, they still have work to do.

While there are still prime bullpen targets on the market, there are still a lot of teams that seem willing to offer these guys a three-year deal, including the Yankees who have an extra 25 million dollars to spend now that Cliff Lee decided to sign with the Phillies.

Lets take a look at the remaining options the Sox could take a look at:

Brian Fuentes

Even with Crain and Guerrier signing today, the Red Sox are still very interested in their former teammate Brian Fuentes.

Fuentes is arguably the best left-handed reliever left on the market as he posted a solid 3.52 ERA and didn't give up an earned run the second half of the season splitting time with the Angels and Twins.  Fuentes has closing experience with the Angels and Colorado Rockies as he is a former All-Star and recorded 48 saves in 2009 with the Angels.

However, after being acquired in a waiver-wire deal, the Twins decided to shift Fuentes into a setup role with Matt Capps serving as their primary closer.  Fuentes had tremendous success with the Twins in a non-closer role as he put less pressure on himself than he would have closing out a game.

The Red Sox are in dire need of a left-handed relief pitcher who could handle the seventh inning duties with Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon handling the eighth and ninth innings for them.  Fuentes would be a great addition and could certainly fill that need.. 

Bobby Jenks

Following his worst season in his six-year career, the Chicago White Sox decided to non-tender closer Bobby Jenks.

Jenks posted a 4.44 ERA and recorded 27 saves with the White Sox in 2010, and ended up losing his closing job to left-hander Matt Thornton midseason.

Jenks would be an under-the-radar addition as you would add a solid seventh inning option who has closing experience and could be relatively cheap. 

Major interest in the 29-year-old reliever is only just developing, so if the Red Sox play their cards right, they could get this guy coming off a bad year fairly cheap.  Jenks has the potential to be a low risk-high reward addition much like Adrian Beltre was last year for the Sox

Rafael Soriano

With the Red Sox already adding a former Tampa Bay Ray in Carl Crawford, why not look into another?

Soriano is coming off a career year with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 as he recorded a MLB-leading 45 saves in 2010 posting an incredible 1.73 ERA.  Despite his great success, teams have yet to express a ton of interest in the All-Star.

The Angels appeared to be the best fit for Soriano about a month ago, but having signed left handed relievers Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi to work the seventh and eigth innings behind Fernando Rodney, they appear to be out of the hunt.

The Red Sox would be a great fit for Soriano if (a big IF), they decided to trade Jonathan Papelbon away, freeing up the closers role.  A deal that would allow Soriano to slide into the closers role on a three-year deal, giving Daniel Bard a few more seasons to get ready to be the full-time closer.

The Red Sox had a tough time closing out games (if you don't believe me, watch any close game when we played the Yankees).  Soriano would almost be a sure thing for a save in the ninth and would allow the Red Sox to win the close games they couldn't win last season.

Boston still has $13 million to spend this offseason, and with the shrinking market for Soriano as a closer, they could certainly fit him into their budget, even if they decided to keep Papelbon as the setup man.

Pedro Feliciano

Probably the most overworked reliever in the game, the 33-year-old Pedro Feliciano was one of the bright spots on the 2010 New York Mets bullpen, and their roster for that matter.

Feliciano appeared in 92 games last season for the Mets as former manager Jerry Manuel displayed tremendous confidence in the 33-year-old. Feliciano did not disappoint,  posting a 3.30 ERA as a "left-handed specialist" as Manuel put it.

Feliciano would fit in the Boston bullpen perfectly as he would assume a role he was been used to being in his entire career as a left-handed pitcher who held left-handed batters to a .215 batting average in 2010.

Feliciano could be a relatively cheap and effective option for Terry Francona as essentially a better and more consistent version of Hideki Okajima: a left-handed pitcher who is used to being brought in often to get left-handed hitters out.

Bring Back The Non-Tenders

The Red Sox acquired right-handed reliever Taylor Buchholz (no relation to Clay) from the Rockies and left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller from the Florida Marlins earlier in the offseason. However, they decided to non-tender them both just days before free agency started.

The Red Sox have expressed interest in bringing them back, but appear to be more focused on Miller.  Miller has really never caught on in the majors as a starter, but could transition into a potential long reliever role for the Red Sox.

Current Red Sox Bullpen:

CP-Jonathan Papelbon

RP-Daniel Bard

RP- Empty (Manny Delcarmen last season)

RP- Empty (Ramon Ramirez last season)

RP-Scott Atchison

RP-Tim Wakefield

RP- Felix Doubront/Junichi Tazawa

Essentially, the Red Sox need to sign at least two relievers to fill the holes.  Preferably a right-handed one (possibly Wheeler) and a left-handed one.  The bullpen has been the main concern according to Theo since the end of the season.  They have 13 million left to spend total, plenty to fill two bullpen slots. 

Your move Theo--the market is getting thinner by the minute.