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Wanted: Eighth-inning guy.

Description: An Andrew Miller-ish late-innings reset button who can wipe out traffic on the bases or calmly navigate a clean inning preceding the entry into the game of closer Craig Kimbrel.

Outlook: Good luck.

“I think we’ve always appreciated the value of [relievers] and the impact players can have in the most meaningful parts of games. It’s one thing to have an appreciation for it. It’s another to be able to find those players who are able and willing to do it effectively,” said Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “I think that’s one of the things that makes Andrew unique, not only how extraordinary of a pitcher he is but his mindset to pitch whenever needed and it’s also the physical and mental ability to be ready for those opportunities.”


(And just in case you were wondering, no, Antonetti said, Cleveland has “no intention of trading” Miller.)

So who fits the profile on the free agent market? Essentially, no one.

There are three dominant closers on the market, with Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, and Mark Melancon all poised to get huge, long-term deals that reflect the growing industry valuation of relievers. But all will be looking for both closer dollars and, in all likelihood, the closer job description – one that is already taken in Boston by Kimbrel.

Of course, the options don’t stop with those three. There is always a wealth of available relievers via free agency. Good ones, on the other hand, aren’t as readily available.

“The reliever market is always the deepest free agent class – deepest and most varied,” said Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi. “You have guys coming off great seasons, you have guys coming off injuries, coming off off-years, and guys you think might benefit from a mechanical change, from an adjustment in their pitch mix. Mining for value in that market is something that every team is spending a lot of time on.


“Everybody is looking to improve their bullpens. It’s kind of low-hanging fruit if you can find the right guys. It is difficult, especially trying to find value in guys that either underperformed or were hurt. But interestingly, that aspect of the pitching market, whereas once upon a time that could yield value, now you have guys coming off of injuries still getting pretty significant contracts. The areas of value have a way of getting rooted out just by the fact that you’ve got 30 clubs all out there trying to find the next guy.”

The Sox have some intriguing candidates with a chance to emerge as eighth-inning options as the season progresses. Joe Kelly (0.64 ERA, 20 strikeouts, 3 walks in 14 innings in September) looked the part at the end of 2016, though he lacks eighth-inning experience. Carson Smith was incredible in the eighth inning in 2015, posting a 0.94 ERA (2nd lowest in the majors, min. 100 batters faced) with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in the frame that year; he has a chance to return by June 1, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski opined. Another mid-year possibility is Michael Kopech, whom the Sox plan – quite rightly – to develop as a starter long-term, but who has the overpowering stuff to make a major bullpen impact as his first exposure to the big leagues, potentially in 2017.


All could emerge, but none are sure things. Kopech has never pitched in the upper minors. Kelly has dealt with a host of injuries. Increasingly, rehab coordinators are advocating more deliberate returns from Tommy John surgery, with the expectation that they might not return to form until the second season after the procedure.

So who else is available via free agency? By Wins Above Replacement (as calculated by Fangraphs), the top non-closer relievers in 2016 who are now free agents were:

■ Righty Brad Ziegler: 2.25 ERA, 7.7 strikeouts per 9, 1.3 WAR with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox

■ Righty Joe Blanton: 2.48 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts per 9, 0.9 WAR with the Dodgers

■ Lefty Boone Logan: 3.69 ERA, 11.1 strikeouts per 9, 0.8 WAR – with some work as a full-inning guy for the eighth complementing a lot of work as a lefty specialist for the Rockies

■ Righty Carlos Torres: 2.73 ERA, 8.5 strikeouts per 9, 0.7 WAR for the Brewers

That’s a pretty limited group – particularly given that, as Peter Abraham writes, Dombrowski sounded tepid about bringing back either Brad Ziegler or Koji Uehara.

It gets a bit deeper if one includes previously elite performers. Former Royals closer Greg Holland, who missed the end of 2015 and all of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was the third most valuable reliever in baseball from 2012-14, behind only Kimbrel and Chapman. It remains to be seen if he’d be open to a setup role.


Giants righthander Sergio Romo posted a 2.98 ERA with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.8 WAR in 2015, then after a difficult, injury-riddled start, finished 2016 with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.42 ERA in 26 appearances over the final two months. However, like Ziegler, Romo is better cast primarily as a right-on-right specialist. Lefty Brett Cecil was excellent in 2015 (2.48 ERA, 11.6 strikeouts per 9, 1.4 WAR), but his stuff diminished in 2016 in a way that reduced him chiefly to a left-on-left role.

In short, there are no Millers on the open market. But, of course, there were no Millers on the open market when Cleveland traded for him. The most intriguing relief name thus will be Royals closer Wade Davis, the man who recorded the final out of Kansas City’s title in 2015 and who, after missing most of last August, returned in September with a 1.04 ERA, 14 strikeouts, and one walk in his last nine appearances.

A’s lefthander Sean Doolittle was one of the game’s best relievers from 2012-14, and dominated in the eighth inning last year (0.54 ERA, 23 strikeouts, 3 walks), though he’s dealt with a litany of injuries over the last two years. Even with health questions, it’s hard to imagine that the A’s would part easily with a pitcher who has two years (at a total of $7 million) and two relatively inexpensive options remaining on his long-term deal.

But at a time when renting Chapman cost the Cubs four prospects including highly regarded outfielder Gleyber Torres (roughly equivalent in value at the time of his deal from the Yankees to Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers), would one year of Davis be worth six of a potential All-Star third baseman or, say, five of Eduardo Rodriguez – both of whom would represent reasonable asks by the Royals in the current market? Would Doolittle be worth Blake Swihart or Sam Travis?


The Sox have defined a clear area of need. What they lack is a clear, palatable mechanism for addressing it.

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.