Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Starting pitching remains Red Sox focus, but eventually, attention must be paid to bullpen, too

It stands to reason that, in a winter in which the entire industry is moving as if encased in cement shoes, the reliever market would be the slowest area of them all.

Spending money on relief pitchers is the most inexact science in the free agent marketplace. It's become virtually impossible to project performance. It would be charitable to say that, year over year, relievers are unpredictable.

"I used to say to (my general manager), 'Why don't we just sign three guys who had (lousy) years the year before,'' recalled one longtime scout this week only half-jokingly, ''because chances are pretty good that at least two of them would bounce back and have big years.''

There are, one supposes, worse approaches to bullpen-building. Throwing darts or picking names out of a hat might be prescribed, too.

As far as the Red Sox are concerned, their reluctance to even wade into the starter's market -- an even bigger team need -- signals that it could be some time before they turn their attention to relievers. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported this week that the Sox will not go beyond two- or three-year deals for starters, which eliminated them from the Tomoyuki Sugano sweepstakes.

But eventually, once they secure a middle-of-the-rotation starter and perhaps another back-end option, the Sox will have to add some relievers. Given their conservative profile and the emphasis on building both for 2021 and beyond, it's hard to imagine the Sox will be in on top of the market options like Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand or Kirby Yates.

It seems likely that all three will command multi-year deals and the Sox are almost certainly not willing to go there.

So, who's left?