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Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies.
1. Jonathan Papelbon (Philadelphia Phillies)
ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that two division leaders have been particularly eager to discuss potential Papelbon trades with the Phillies:
"They're talking to Boston and Detroit [about Papelbon] right now," an exec of one team said. "They may not say they are, but I know they are." Said another: "Don't be surprised if you see Papelbon end up in Detroit. If the Tigers have a chance to get the closer they need, they won't let [a big asking price] stand in the way..."
Not surprisingly in the least. Both the Red Sox and Tigers have struggled to find a consistent closer and expect to contend immediately. According to Ruben Amaro Jr., moving Papelbon to either of those destinations will hinge on whether or not he receives a fair "baseball deal," per Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Despite posting his best ERA and WHIP in several years, the 32-year-old hardly looks untouchable in 2013. His 7.7 K/9 represents a personal career-worst and left-handed batters have been slugging .415 against him.
Regardless, Papelbon should be coveted on a thin relief market.
2. Jesse Crain (Chicago White Sox)
It's been an excellent season for the impending free agent.
Per FanGraphs, his 0.74 ERA, 1.54 FIP and 2.0 WAR are tops among qualified American League relievers. With less than $1.5 million owed to him from July 31 onward, Crain should be in play for practically every contender.
Landing on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, however, will keep him out of action through at least the All-Star break. That kind of overuse injury is also a red flag for clubs who hoped to use him frequently down the stretch.
3. Addison Reed (Chicago White Sox)
What if Crain is a slow healer? Or suffers a setback? Then Chicago would feel more pressured to deal Reed for the promising prospects they sorely need.
Few 24-year-olds with his kind of arm demonstrate such great command. A couple rough outings bloated Reed's earned run average, but a dramatic drop in his WHIP indicates growth and the potential to close for a serious contender.
Teams with large home ballparks best suit Reed because of his tendency to induce fly balls.
4. Steve Cishek (Miami Marlins)
Trade buzz about Miami's bullpen has flown under the radar.
Courtesy of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, we've learned that most of their relievers are drawing interest. Cishek, the closer, should attract the most suitors as both an immediate asset and someone to help a pitching staff for years to come.
The 27-year-old has been practically untouchable since the second week of June. Overall this season, Cishek is striking out nearly a batter per inning.
There's less than a quarter-million dollars left on his 2013 contract. He'll gain arbitration eligibility for the first time next year.
5. Kevin Gregg (Chicago Cubs)
Ken Rosenthal insists the Cubbies are "all but certain to trade" Gregg and their other players who will be free agents at season's end.
The 35-year-old closer began his second stint with the organization by inking a minor league deal in April, so his salary won't deter any suitors. He pitched in 14 appearances this season before surrendering an earned run and still boasts a 1.59 ERA and 9.8 K/9.
The main concern about Gregg has to be his historically high walk rates, including 4.9 BB/9 last summer.