The trade rumor mill is in full gear with less than a week until the trading deadline, so you’d probably expect this article to be all about trade candidates that could leave bullpen roles in flux. Hooray for met expectations!
Heath Bell – He’s the big dog on the trade market now, not just with regard to relief pitching but in general as well. He’s been linked to every team this side of the Springfield Isotopes. A list: Cardinals, Angels, Phillies, Rangers, Braves, Blue Jays, Reds, Pirates, White Sox, Yankees. My money is on the Rangers winning the sweepstakes, which would land Mike Adams in the closing role, where he would be among the league’s elite.
Mike Adams – Teams are also inquiring over Adams, a reliever the Padres are hesitant to move. However, can you imagine how well-stocked the Padres’ farm system would be if they decide to move both? It’s not like the relief cupboard would be bare, either; Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Josh Spence and Ernesto Frieri have all had some degree of success so far. I could see them getting Jurickson Profar and/or Martin Perez from the Rangers, considering Bell brings along with him the promise of draft picks for the acquiring team. Adams himself should net a top prospect. I do think Adams will ultimately be a Padre on August 1, though. If both are dealt, Gregerson will likely become closer.
Leo Nunez – The Marlins are taking calls on offers for Nunez, who still has one year of arbitration remaining. If Florida can get a good pitching prospect for him, they’ll bite. The Phillies have inquired about the Marlins closer, while any of the teams listed in the Bell paragraph could be in depending on the price. Edward Mujica would move into the closing role with a trade, but I’d say Nunez isn’t traded this year. If the Marlins don’t contend next year in their new park, they can always ship him away for a good prospect at the 2012 deadline.
Huston Street – Street would obviously be one of the better arms on the market, though he could very well also be considered the most injury prone. Any team trading for Street will have to commit at least $8 million after this season (a $7.5 million 2012 salary plus a $500,000 option buyout). No word on the teams involved, but we can assume the Rangers, Phillies and Cardinals have all touched base. The Yankees should be in the mix as well, as always. Matt Lindstrom would probably close in the event of a Street trade.
Jason Isringhausen – Izzy has come into the closing role as predicted after the K-Rod trade. He’s performed admirably in his short time with the job, collecting a win and two saves in his first three games as closer while allowing no runs in four innings. His price wouldn’t be nearly as prohibitive as anyone listed above, so he’d make for a nice consolation prize for teams like the Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Reds. However, the Mets are talking him up as a “mentor” to Bobby Parnell, who would close if Izzy is shipped off, as well as the other Mets relievers. I call BS on the posturing move and say Izzy is a Cardinal again by this time next week.
Brandon League – The Mariners have experienced one of their worst swoons in recent memory, going from AL West contenders to trading-deadline sellers in the span of about two weeks. As a result, teams are inquiring about Brandon League, who’s filled David Aardsma’s shoes quite well. His quality season should make his salary rise significantly in his final year of arbitration, and that could spurn the Mariners to make a move. Throw League’s name in as a possibility to all the teams in the Bell post, and AL-only fantasy leagues should already be checking on the status of David Pauley, who should close if League is traded.
Andrew Bailey – He’s one of the better relievers that could be traded this week, though the probability of a trade is so low that I’m only including him as an obligation. The Rangers would love to have him, while the A’s would (I’m sure) love to have multiple top prospects. Don’t expect a deal to go down. Grant Balfour or Brian Fuentes could close after a trade, and I’m leaning toward the A’s going Dirty in the five percent chance someone gives the farm for Bailey.
Joakim Soria – Here’s another closer whom teams like the Yankees and Phillies have called about but who’s not getting traded. How do I know? The Royals have annouced they’ll move Aaron Crow into the rotation next year, and he’d be about the only person they could have long-term hopes of excelling in the role right now.
Matt Thornton – Remember him? The Cardinals and White Sox are discussing a trade involving Colby Rasmus, and Thornton would be a prime candidate to make the trip to the National League in the event of such a trade. Fernando Salas has been great this season, but Thornton has three years of elite stats and could move into the role should Salas falter during the stretch run. The way Tony LaRussa has juggled closers this year, you almost think he’d feel obligated to get Thornton in the role for a week or two.
Brad Lidge is back, though it’ll be a while before the team thinks about giving him the ball in the ninth… Speaking of the Phillies, Charlie Manuel alluded to Antonio Bastardo keeping the closing job for the long-term, saying he “might be able to do whatever he wants to do with the way he’s been.” Apparently, that excludes closing games, as Ryan Madson went on to get the next few saves. Madson > Bastardo > Lidge right now … J.J. Putz is on the verge of re-joining the Diamondbacks; expect him to earn the job virtually immediately upon return, as manager Kirk Gibson is a proper gentleman that doesn’t play mind games, unlike some people. Kudos to David Hernandez for a quality performance as the closer; you’ll hear more about him in the future … Joe Nathan’s famous again; eat him up … Jon Rauch is currently the Blue Jays closer despite the team not having any games for him to save. Should an opportunity arise in a close game, expect Rauch and Frank Francisco to hold hands on the mound while attempting to finish the game together. That’s legal, right?