- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- With the ranks of available relievers rapidly thinning, the Boston Red Sox have their sights focused on three pitchers, according to one baseball source: left-hander Brian Fuentes and right-handers Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. All pitched for the Minnesota Twins last season, though Fuentes did not arrive until Aug. 27 in a waiver deal with the Angels.
At least nine relievers have come to terms with new teams or accepted salary arbitration with their former teams, including three left-handers: Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, both of whom were signed by the Angels, and Dennys Reyes, who signed with the Phillies.
The market for relievers, non-closer variety, was set by the Detroit Tigers when they signed Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, $16.5 million contract. Downs, whom the Sox had targeted, also signed a three-year deal, for $15 million with the Angels, who surrendered a second-round draft pick to Toronto for him (The Angels' first-round pick was protected).
The other relievers who have signed: Koji Uehara, 1 year, $3 million, Orioles; J.J. Putz, 2 years, $10 million, Diamondbacks; Takahashi, 2 years, $8 million; Jason Frasor, accepted arbitration with Blue Jays; Frank Francisco, accepted arbitration with Rangers; Jose Contreras, 2 years, $5.5 million, Phillies; and Reyes, 1 year, $1.1 million.
The Red Sox were not willing to go to three years on Downs, according to a source. Like Downs, Guerrier is a Type A free agent, but the Twins did not offer arbitration, so compensation is not required. Crain and Fuentes are both Type B free agents.
A brief snapshot of the three:
• Guerrier: The right-hander led the American League in appearances in 2008 and 2009, and made 74 appearances last season, with a 3.17 ERA and ERA-plus (adjusted for ballpark) of 131. He held opposing hitters to a .219 average, averaged 5.3 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, and 2.8 walks per 9 innings. His WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) was 1.099. The 32-year-old Guerrier, who was paid $3.1 million last season, is a sinker-slider pitcher who also throws a curve and changeup.
• Crain: The right-hander made 71 appearances last season, with a 3.04 ERA and ERA-plus of 137. He held opposing hitters to a .215 average, averaged 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched and 3.6 walks per 9. His WHIP was 1.176. Crain has a power arm, with a four-seamer he can throw in the mid-90s. He also features a sinker and slurve, a hybrid curve-slider. Crain, 29, was paid $2 million last season.
• Fuentes: The left-hander made 48 appearances last season, with a 2.81 ERA and an ERA-plus of 147. He held opposing hitters to a .181 average; lefties batted just .128 (6-for-47). He averaged 8.8 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings; his WHIP was 1.063. Fuentes may still be looking for a chance to close. He led the AL in saves for the Angels in 2009 with 48. Fuentes' best pitch is a changeup. He also throws a slider to get left-handed hitters out and a backdoor slider to righties. The 35-year-old Fuentes won't come cheap. He was paid $9 million in 2010.
While these three pitchers appear to be Boston's primary targets, the team is looking at other options as well, including Andrew Miller, the left-hander it acquired by trade from Florida last month, then nontendered.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier are among the relievers being targeted by the Red Sox, according to a source.