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Looking at relievers the Red Sox could be eyeing

Rob Bradford
June 19, 2018 - 7:36 am

It's that time of year again when the Red Sox get ready for their dive into the late-inning relief pitching market.

This time around they could certainly make the case that the desperation isn't there. Craig Kimbrel remains one of the best closers in the game, Joe Kelly has emerged as one of the game's best set-up men and Matt Barnes has limited to a .170 batting average against. Guys like Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree have also shown the ability to be legitimate answers at key times. It's a group that has the sixth-best OPS against in the majors (.648) and actually has the potential to get better without a single move.

Despite his most recent hiccup, there is the notion that Tyler Thornburg is on the verge of being a viable weapon, with the idea of Drew Pomeranz possibly morphing into a bullpen role offering an intriguing option. Ty Buttrey is blowing Triple-A hitters away, and the ascension of newly-drafted Durbin Feltman isn't out of the question.

But it does feel like a bit more certainty might be needed.

The most certain of certainties, Kelvin Herrera, is now off the board, with the Nationals trading for the former Royals closer Monday night. That was an option that most likely was never going to be realistic for the Red Sox, who don't seem prepared to pay too hefty a price when it comes to a rental player.

There are, however, others, some of which actually could be considered for closing duties beyond this season. Here are some names to keep an eye on ... 

Brad Hand, Padres: The 28-year-old lefty wouldn't come cheap due to how many years of control the Sox would be getting, but the National League-leader in saves (21) might be worth it. Fifty-three strikeouts in 36 innings and a .167 batting average against haven't been flukes.

Raisel Igelisias, Reds: The righty is in the same boat as Hand, having plenty of years before becoming a free agent while closing games for a bad team. He saved 28 of 30 games for Cincy last season and is 10 for 12 this year. He did recently suffer from a strained biceps.

Brad Brach, Orioles: He's a rental who has been good but not great, and might not represent a huge cost (although it is hard to decipher how realistic the Orioles are going to be in their sell-off). But here's something to consider: The Yankees' Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez are a combined 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts against the right-hander.

Joakim Soria, White Sox: The veteran has reemerged as a legitimate late-inning threat, as the Red Sox found out when facing him during their most recent homestand. Dave Dombrowski has dealt for Soria before (although the 2014 stint wasn't overly successful), and the 34-year-old righty could serve as a reliable option against right-handed hitters, who are hitting just .179 with a .452 OPS against him. His contract is also up after this season.

Craig Stammen, Padres: The problem is that San Diego is paying him very little, having inked the 34-year-old to a two-year $4.5 million deal prior to this season. But this is a right-handed, non-closer who can flat-out get guys out, limiting lefty hitters to a .207 batting average against, with righties not faring much better (.217). He has pitched primarily in the seventh inning this season.

Shane Greene, Tigers: The 29-year-old right-hander has already been acquired by Dombrowski once, coming to Detroit in the three-team, Didi Gregorius deal. After a standout season in 2017 (2.66 ERA, .205 batting average against in 71 games), he has held his own as the Tigers' closer. Detroit is hanging around in the Central Division, but if the right deal pops up don't think they won't jump at it.

Kyle Barraclough, Marlins: Although few might be witnessing his performance, the 28-year-old right-hander has been really, really good. How good? He's giving up one hit since May 6, encompassing a total of 18 appearances. He is under control for three more seasons so Miami's asking price probably would get a bit uncomfortable. But considering the Red Sox probably will be needing a closer of the future, such an investment might be worth it.

Jeurys Familia, Mets: How about this one -- Stanton is 1-for-12 with eight strikeouts against the closer from across town. The 28-year-old would be a rental and has just recently come off the disabled list with a sore shoulder. This is a guy, however, who has proven late-inning stuff.

Zach Britton, Orioles: This rental is the wild-card in the race to find late-inning help. Having just come back from an Achilles tendon injury, Britton's stuff suggests he might be on the verge of re-establishing himself as a legitimate weapon (having pitched just three times this season).

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