Felix Doubront a Virtual Lock for Bullpen As Red Sox Miss Out on Another Reliever in Jesse Crain

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Another day, another three-year deal for a relief pitcher once rumored to be going to the Red Sox, and another soft retaliation by general manager Theo Epstein.

Moments after reliever Jesse Crain signed a three-year deal with the Chicago White Sox, Epstein added more depth to what could be a large stable of potential bullpen help by agreeing in principle on a deal with former Red Sox pitcher Lenny DiNardo.

Epstein has now added Matt Albers, who owns a 5.15 career ERA, and DiNardo, a one-time Rule 5 pickup, to a group that could still include non-tendered players Andrew Miller, Taylor Buchholz and Hideki Okajima, if the organization is still in discussions with them.

In the meantime, more coveted pieces like Crain, Matt Guerrier and Scott Downs have each signed three-year deals in the past week. That is a contract length that Epstein may not be comfortable going to for a bullpen arm, especially for the $4 or $5 million that each of these guys is getting.

Joaquin Benoit was the first of the four relievers to get a pricey three-year term, setting a market that has remained player-friendly.

Perhaps Epstein is committed to not going that route. If he is, knowing that the collection of Albers, DiNardo and others might not do the trick, his list of targets is shrinking by the day.

Kerry Wood is now rumored to be close to returning to the Chicago Cubs. Others such as Octavio Dotel and Joe Beimel reportedly have many potential suitors. The Yankees, of course, are active in almost any big name out there.

The more names that disappear from this otherwise loaded reliever market, the better chance that Felix Doubront figures into the pen in 2011. He would be cheap, likely very effective and not tied to the team for multiple years.

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