Boston Red Sox Top-5 free agent reliever targets

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Sep 24, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski (left) introduces Mike Hazen (right) as the team

One of the more difficult tasks facing Dave Dombrowski this offseason will be restocking a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League with a 4.24 ERA. The most troubling part of this equation is that assembling a steady core of relievers has never been a specialty of the new Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations.

The Detroit Tigers, whose bullpen was assembled by Dombrowski before he departed the organization mid-season, were one of only two teams that finished with a worse collective ERA from their relievers. Detroit’s bullpen also allowed the highest batting average against (.271) and amassed the second-fewest strikeouts (395). Bullpen struggles are nothing new for Dombrowski’s teams, as his Tigers finished in the bottom-five in the league in every year since 2011.

The volatile nature of relievers can often make the process of putting together a bullpen akin to throwing darts. Their sporadic usage makes them more prone to both rust and fatigue, while also carrying a higher risk for injury. A reliever can come out of nowhere with a dominant season, only to crumble the next. There is a relatively small percentage of middle relievers that are consistently great every year, as the ones that accomplish that are typically promoted to the closer role and lavished with expensive contracts.

Clearly the front office has their work cut out for them piecing together a revamped Red Sox bullpen, but the free agent market includes some enticing options. On Tuesday we discussed which members of the bullpen the Red Sox should keep, but they will need reinforcements to replace the ones that won’t be sticking around. Let’s examine the top-5 relievers on the market that the team should consider signing.

Next: Tyler Clippard