MLB Trade Rumors: 5 Relief Pitchers to Target Before the Trade Deadline
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MLB trade rumors are running rampant as we approach the July 31 trade deadline, and with contenders looking to upgrade their bullpens, fantasy owners will have an opportunity to capitalize on those highly coveted saves as relief pitchers change teams.
Unfortunately, some owners will lose saves, as closers on losing teams will be shipped to winning teams and will be primarily used as setup men.
Someone has to fill the closer void on losing teams, so get ahead of the competition by targeting these five relief pitchers before the MLB trade deadline.
1. Brandon Lyon, RHP, Houston Astros
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The Astros are most certainly sellers at the deadline, as evidenced by their trading of slugger Carlos Lee to the Marlins last week. Everyone (except for Jed Lowrie reportedly) is on the block, and that includes closer Brett Myers.
The only roadblock would be his $10 million 2013 option, but that could be restructured if he’s traded a la Francisco Rodriguez last season. If traded, it’s a near certainty that he will not be closing games for his new team.
Enter Brandon Lyon. He has 78 career saves, including 20 two years ago with the Astros. He has a career high 9.1 K/9 and 4.0 K/BB ratio this season. Being the only other reliable, healthy option in the bullpen, Lyon is the best save target before the trade deadline.
Dark Horse: Wilton Lopez
Lopez had a 26/4 K/BB ratio before being sent to the DL with an elbow sprain earlier this season. The injury isn’t as serious as first thought, and he recently appeared in a AAA rehab game on July 5. He was considered a dark-horse candidate before the season even started and with a trade of Myers, he would only be one or two Lyon hiccups away from getting save opportunities.
2. Dale Thayer, RHP, San Diego Padres
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The Padres have also been considered sellers at the deadline, with OF Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street being the two most likely to be traded. Street is in the last year of his contract with San Diego and has a relatively cheap buyout for his 2013 option.
The only issue is his injury history, but his effectiveness when healthy will make him a target for contending teams.
Dale Thayer filled in for Street when he landed on the DL in May and converted five save opportunities. He was spectacular with 7 K, 0 BB and 0 ER in those five saves, but he was spectacularly awful in non-save situations. We should get a chance to see which Thayer shows up once Street is traded.
Dark Horse: Luke Gregerson
Gregerson has always been a valuable reliever for the Padres, and his K/9 is back over 10.0 after a down season last year. He is mostly a setup man, as he has only three career saves while notching 27, 40, 16, and 11 holds respectively each of the last four seasons.
However if Thayer falters, Gregerson has the stuff to be the closer.
3. Jared Burton, RHP, Minnesota Twins
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Matt Capps was a near-lock to be traded before he landed on the DL in June. It’s a little more uncertain now, but he is slated to pitch a GCL game on July 9. With a few rehab outings, we can expect him back in the middle of July, just in time to showcase his arm for potential trade partners.
Another closer in a contract year, Capps should be dealt and be a setup man for a team looking to make a playoff run.
While Capps has been out, both Glen Perkins and Jared Burton have recorded saves. Perkins has four compared to Burton’s two, so manager Rod Gardenhire has shown confidence in both to use them in the ninth inning.
Walks have plagued Burton in the past, but he seems to have them under control this season with a 4.33 K/BB ratio. The main reason we should target Burton instead of Perkins is because Perkins could also be a trade target for a team looking for a lefty specialist.
Dark Horse: Glen Perkins
The Twins prefer him in setup role, but he has been dominant with 10.1 K/9. He’s not just a lefty specialist, though, so he could very easily claim a portion of the closer’s role with Capps gone.
4. Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals
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The Royals have recently confirmed that closer Jonathan Broxton is on the trading block, even though the asking price may be high (a “major league piece,” according to Jon Morosi on Twitter). Broxton isn’t the same pitcher that he was when he recorded 36 saves for the Dodgers in 2009. However, he could be a solid piece to add to the back-end of a bullpen.
The Royals have a few lively arms in their bullpen, but the most likely candidate to take over the closing duties if Broxton is traded is Greg Holland. He has an elite 13.4 K/9, but still walks too many batters and that is shown in his 1.71 WHIP.
He is currently in the setup role, but he can be replaced in that capacity with Aaron Crow or Tim Collins.
Dark Horse: Tim Collins
Collins also sports a ridiculous K/9 with 12.4, he has closed in minors, and is equally effective vs. LHB and RHB (.211 vs LHB, .170 vs RHB). He has the credentials to be given the closer role, so he is someone to keep an eye on if Broxton leaves Kansas City.
5. Matt Belisle, RHP, Colorado Rockies
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The replacement for Rafael Betancourt should be higher on this list, but Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd has recently said that they won’t be looking to trade their closer (according to ESPN’s Buster Olney on Twitter).
However, I’m sure he will open his mind as the trade offers come in throughout the month. Betancourt will likely be used as a setup man on another roster, but he has shown closer capabilities this season while notching a career high 14 saves.
The Rockies pitching staff has been a mess this season, starting with the four-man rotation experiment. Aside from Betancourt, the only other reliable arm has been Matt Belisle.
He doesn’t have the elite strikeout potential of some of the other guys on this list, but he has an impeccable walk rate (only 8 BB in 44.1 IP). He has only recorded two saves in his career, but that will change if Betancourt departs.
Dark Horse: Rex Brothers
Since being recalled on June 2, Brothers has recorded five holds and a sparkling 23/4 K/BB ratio. Being a lefty may limit him to the setup/specialist role, but it would be interesting to see what he could do in the ninth inning.