Trade Targets: Relief Pitchers

We’ve already run through first basemen and designated hitters, corner outfielders, and middle infielders who could be available at the trading deadline. Today, we cover five relievers who could be switching teams over the next two months.

PLAYER: Heath Bell
TEAM: Padres
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Cardinals, Indians, Phillies
CONTRACT STATUS: $7.5 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 1.3

Bell is pretty clearly the best “proven closer” on the market, and he’s likely the best overall reliever as well. Even though his K/9 is down to 7.0 this year, his swinging strike rate of 9.1% indicates that it’ll increase a bit, even if it doesn’t get all the way back to his gaudy 11.1 rate from 2010. To compensate, Bell’s ground ball rate is up to 51% this year — an especially nice quality to keep were he to exit spacious PETCO Park.

There may be more interested teams than those listed above, but St. Louis, Cleveland, and Philly appear to be the contenders most in need of a “proven closer.” For as effective as they have been, I don’t think Tony La Russa would like to rely on Fernando Salas and Jason Motte as his crunch-time closers down the stretch. Charlie Manuel has had enough trouble committing to Ryan Madson in the closer role in the past, and who knows what Brad Lidge will be when he returns from injury. The Indians are bereft of big names in their bullpen, and although Chris Perez has pitched well as closer so far, his equal number of strikeouts and walks doesn’t bode well for the future.

Bell may only have this season left on his deal, but he might not come too cheap, as he will quite easily qualify as a Type-A free agent if draft pick compensation remains in the new CBA. The Padres aren’t contending this year, so they’ll be looking for prospects in return, and it’ll probably take a couple of B-B+ guys to free Bell from San Diego.

PLAYER: Mike Adams
TEAM: Padres
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Any Contender
CONTRACT STATUS: $2.535 million, one year of arbitration remaining.
PROJECTED WAR: 1.0

For as much trouble as the Padres have had actually holding leads past the seventh inning this year, when they do, look out. Before teams have to deal with Bell, they first have to get through Mike Adams, who has arguably been the better pitcher out of the two over the last few years. I detailed Adams’s domination last month, but his FIPs over the last three season should drive the point home: 1.66, 2.31, 2.29.

There isn’t a single contender with a bullpen so solid they couldn’t use Adams. The best choice may be Texas, whose bullpen has been worth a whopping -1.5 WAR so far this year and hasn’t had much stability outside of Neftali Feliz. Other prime choices include Anaheim, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, but really, there isn’t a contending team that wouldn’t have a solid reason for adding Adams to their bullpen.

PLAYER: Joakim Soria
TEAM: Royals
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Rangers, Cardinals
CONTRACT STATUS: $4 million, three years of club options worth $22.75 million remaining.
PROJECTED WAR: 1.0

Chances are, teams won’t be looking to add Soria as a closer given his remarkable collapse to begin the year. However, for any team with an established closer already in place, Soria may be worth a flyer. If he recovers his old form or even half of his old form, he would easily be worth his contract, and his club options are potentially quite team friendly.

Unfortunately, Soria may be broken. His swinging strike rate is all the way down to 7.1%, his velocity is down, and his control appears to be vacating him as well. But the Cardinals and Rangers have two of the best pitching coaches in the league in Dave Duncan and Mike Maddux, and if anybody could fix Soria, I would imagine it would be them.

PLAYER: Jonathan Broxton
TEAM: Dodgers
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Any Contender
CONTRACT STATUS: $7 million, free agent after the season.
PROJECTED WAR: 1.0

It seemed only two seasons ago, after posting his third straight two-WAR season out of the closer’s role for the Dodgers, that Broxton was possibly the best relief pitcher in baseball. Now, Broxton is on the disabled list with a 5.68 ERA and a 5.54 FIP. Even in 2010, Broxton didn’t seem like quite the same pitcher, posting career lows in strikeout rate and swinging strike rate and career highs in walk rate and home run rate.

However, Broxton is only 27, and given hisapparent dislike for discussing his injuries with the medical staff, it’s possible that his current injury has been a lingering item, causing his semi-decline in 2010 as well. Teams with excellent pitching coaches, as with Soria, would make the best trade partners for Broxton. A potential trade partner may even get a bargain — with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt relying on corporate sponsors to make payroll this month, the opportunity to get free from Broxton’s contract may be well met.

PLAYER: Brian Fuentes
TEAM: Athletics
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Brewers, Yankees
CONTRACT STATUS: 2 years, $10 million, with $6.5 million option for 2013
PROJECTED WAR: 0.5

Fuentes is burning bridges in Oakland both on and off the field. He does have 11 saves in his 25 games, but also a remarkable seven losses. Or, in a more advanced view, he has 10 shutdowns to a stunning seven meltdowns. Throw in his rough words for manager Bob Geren and Andrew Bailey‘s return to an already crowded A’s bullpen and Fuentes may be forced out.

The question is if anybody would be willing to take on Fuentes’s multi-year contract. The Brewers make sense from a personnel standpoint, as their bullpen currently doesn’t have a single left-hander (although Zach Braddock‘s return is near), but I don’t know if they would take on that contract. The Yankees may be an option, as I would imagine they could use a left-handed pitcher that isn’t Boone Logan, and with how fungible relievers are, an opportunity could open up on nearly any contender’s roster, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Some other options include the rest of the Padres’ bullpen, specifically Luke Gregerson and Chad Qualls, or perhaps one of the back-end Pittsburgh relievers, Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan. However, Gregerson, Meek, and Hanrahan are all cost-controlled and their teams just might not have the incentive to move them this season.

With the other positions, it tends to be a bit more cut-and-dried as to which teams need what. With relievers, so much can change in an instant. Before we truly know which teams will be in the running for these players (and others), we’ll have to wait for races to shake themselves out. One thing we do know, however, is this year could be the year in which the Padres cash in on their wealth of relievers, and there could be quite a few teams involved in the bidding.



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GTW
Member
GTW
5 years 27 days ago

Shouldn’t Francisco Rodriguez headline this group?

Braves Fan
Guest
Braves Fan
5 years 27 days ago

His contract will scare away most teams…

Franco
Guest
Franco
5 years 27 days ago

You’d have to imagine that the Mets would eat half his contract to trade him to another team to avoid his vest. Anyone looking for a good but slightly pricey set up man

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
5 years 26 days ago

He’d look great in pinstripes, and I’m sure the yankees would be happy to take his contract if they don’t have to give up much. And obviously, his option would not vest if he pitched for the yanks.

Stan
Guest
Stan
5 years 27 days ago

I would just like to point out that LaRussa won in 1996 with a bullpen of rookie Adam Wainwright and unknowns Tyler Johnson and Josh Kinney and journeyman Braden Looper filling in the cracks. I think he’ll be just fine with Salas and Sanchez rather than going for a veteran closer.

TartanElk
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TartanElk
5 years 27 days ago

La Russa won in 2006*

chuckb
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chuckb
5 years 26 days ago

I think he’d be fine with those guys also but I don’t think the Cards think they’d be fine w/ those guys. They’ll waste resources by sending someone valuable to the Padres and not improve their pen much at all.

Jross
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Jross
5 years 27 days ago

Can you see the Rays going for Mike Adams if he qualifies as a Type-B.

Francisco Rodríguez
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Francisco Rodríguez
5 years 27 days ago

Where’s the love for me?

Nik
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Nik
5 years 27 days ago

These jokes went out of style the day they started.

swag
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swag
5 years 27 days ago

Frank Francisco
Octavio Dotel
Jon Rauch
Jason Frasor

all up for grabs

Zach
Guest
Zach
5 years 27 days ago

I’m pretty sure Mike Adams isn’t going anywhere.

descender
Member
descender
5 years 27 days ago

Agreed, much better idea to trade Bell and get 2 picks.

jirish
Guest
jirish
5 years 27 days ago

Yeah-the difference between Bell and Adams is that Adams is still under team control for one more season. The Padres only move Adams if someone makes them an offer they can’t refuse.

I wonder if Rodriquez would be willing to rework his contract if he were traded out of New York? If he was, that makes him a viable option for some of the clubs you mention.

Colorado seems to be imploding-they have Rafael Bettencort in the pen-he has been a reliable 7-8th inning guy for years. I would look at him too.

steex
Member
steex
5 years 27 days ago

I could definitely see the Padres trading Bell this year, then making Adams the closer so that they can rinse and repeat at the 2012 deadline with him. The organization seems to have no difficulty with constantly developing bullpen replacements.

Jim
Guest
Jim
5 years 27 days ago

I think Boston will be in on all of these guys, unless Jenks turns it around. They need someone else besides Bard to get to Papelbon, and there aren’t many other areas where they will need to improve (maybe a SP)

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
5 years 27 days ago

Replace Chris Perez now?

Oh.

John
Guest
John
5 years 27 days ago

Carlos Marmol.

He is about the only Cubs player with serious value. They need to blow that team to bits and building around a closer doesn’t make sense. But what do the Cubs do that makes sense?

Daniel
Member
Daniel
5 years 27 days ago

Nothing.

But they just gave him a three year contract. And what would they really get for him? There are too many options out there. I highly doubt it would be worth it.

A guy from PA
Guest
A guy from PA
5 years 27 days ago

Sort of surprised no Hanrahan here. After what Huntington extracted for Dotel last year, I bet he would love to see what he could get for an actual elite level closer…

Joltin' Joe
Guest
5 years 27 days ago

That was a nice trade for the Bucs, but unless you deal with Ned Colletti, don’t expect lightning to strike twice. After all, Omar Minaya is gone…

Mr. wOBAto
Guest
Mr. wOBAto
5 years 26 days ago

Chris Nelson would likely be an upgrade over Paulino at SS and if Street continues to struggle the Rockies would probably be happy to part with Nelson or EY2

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 years 26 days ago

Did you just call Hanrahan an elite level closer??

Barkey Walker
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Barkey Walker
5 years 27 days ago

I would think Capps is ripe for a trade. Obviously he is not off to the best start, but I could see a team wanting him for a setup guy or even closer if they are seriously lacking.

mike wants wins
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mike wants wins
5 years 26 days ago

We can only hope.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
5 years 27 days ago

I’m not so sure KC trades Soria. If he fixes himself, then he’s a 27 year old elite closer anchoring an extremely talented young bullpen who is under team control until potentially 2014. If not, he’s not something most teams will trade for. I could be wrong though, lots of teams give way too much for relief.

RobMer
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RobMer
5 years 27 days ago

I agree. I think it makes little sense to trade Soria right now. His value is at a low. Unless the Royals are aware of some arm injury, they should get him healthy, let him reestablish his value, and then trade him. This should be a reminder that closers rarely have long runs. Perhaps they believed the Rivera comparisons. He is not Rivera. No one is.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
5 years 27 days ago

Oh, and again with the Phillies adding a bunch of money? 80M locked up on 4 guys next year and a salary already at 175M, I don’t think they’re adding nearly 8M.

hk
Guest
hk
5 years 27 days ago

Agreed, the Phillies will not spend for a closer. They’ve gotten through the first two months of the season without Lidge and with Contreras on the DL for three weeks. Charlie Manual seems to have gotten over his illogical fear of using Ryan Madson in the closer’s role and has been rewarded with a solid back end of the bullpen. Between having Madson and Contreras and possibly Lidge, not to mention some questions about the offense and a limited amount of payroll flexibility if they want to avoid the luxury tax, it seems unlikely that the Phillies will target Heath Bell. If they look to improve the bullpen, it would probably be to add a cheap LOOGY.

Dan
Guest
Dan
5 years 27 days ago

I don’t see the Indians spending big on a reliever, as they have decent organizational depth there. Josh Judy, Hagadone are just about ready to go, Alex White will be back from the DL, and both Kelvin De La Cruz and Joe Gardner could likely be fast-tracked if needs be.

If they really make a big trade for a pitcher, it would be a starter good enough to be in a playoff rotation. And from recent interviews, it doesn’t sound like their front office will be willing to sell the farm at the deadline.

If they make a move, it’s going to be pretty minor, IMO.

Joltin' Joe
Guest
5 years 27 days ago

I find it a little odd that the Yankees are only mentioned in Fuentes’ piece. They wanted Soria pretty badly when he was good and healthy, and if he shows signs of improvement, you’d have to think they’d be interested since Soriano is likely gone for a while. Heath Bell would make a ton of sense for the same reason, plus the Yankees could afford the balance of the contract while small market teams would have to squeeze (Indians adding ~ $3 million at the deadline? I doubt it.)

miffleball
Guest
miffleball
5 years 27 days ago

Just wondering about the WAR for these guys since they’re all considered good relievers and the WARs are frighteningly low. For instance, that WAR value on Bell matches that posted by Kevin Millwood last year and no one is suggesting signing Millwood instead of trading prospects for Bell.
I just wonder if maybe relievers WAR shouldn’t be based on something different, to better gauge their value (like, just as a proposal, runs scored, including inherited ones) since they are clearly meant to throw few innings and allow as close to no runs to score, whether they are inherited or not. The principal behind the reliever is that eventually the starter loses effectiveness and a reliever(s) covers the gap until the end of the game, so maybe they should be judged on how well they do that and not get compared to a starter. I guess I would view it as fielding positional adjustments type of thing, where everyone agrees that an outstanding first baseman and an outstanding shortstop are given different fielding values.
I guess I would try to adjust for the job of a reliever instead of comparing to starters because otherwise the best relievers just look that bad number 5 starters.

Drakos
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Drakos
5 years 26 days ago

Well that 1.3 WAR for Bell is a rest of season value and he has already accumulated .7 WAR this season. Millwood put up 1.3 WAR last year and a lot of that was based on the fact that he pitched 195 innings.

Eric P
Guest
Eric P
5 years 26 days ago

“The best choice may be Texas, whose bullpen has been worth a whopping -1.5 WAR so far this year and hasn’t had much stability outside of Neftali Feliz.”

Feliz has been worth -0.4 WAR this year, so I don’t think I’d say he’s added an stability to their ‘pen so far…

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