MLB Trade Deadline: Joakim Soria and 5 Relievers Who Could Be Moved

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2011

MLB Trade Deadline: Joakim Soria and 5 Relievers Who Could Be Moved

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    When it comes to the MLB trade deadline, ace-caliber starting pitchers can be hard to come by. Luckily, for many teams seeking help in the late innings, the same can't be said for relievers.

    This is especially true this season, as a mixture of teams in financial turmoil and a number of top relievers reaching free agency may equal the most movement among relief pitchers in recent history.

    Although the importance of relievers is often overlooked, they could have a profound impact on the playoff race, as many contending teams have needs in the bullpen. If there's any doubt about how vital a reliever, or more specifically a closer, can be to playoff success, look no further than the 2009 postseason. The only team that didn't blow a save in the playoffs that year was the New York Yankees, and they went on to win it all.

    Here are five relievers who could be moved at the MLB trade deadline.

Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

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    For as good as Joakim Soria has been over the past four seasons, he's been equally as bad in 2011. The once shutdown closer, who used to be known as “The Mexicutioner,” is only killing the Kansas City Royals' chances of winning games at this point.

    After blowing his third consecutive save chance Monday, Soria removed himself from the closer role. Soria has blown five of his 12 save chances on the season and currently has an ERA of 6.55 and a WHIP of 1.68.

    Although Soria's move out of the closer spot should be temporary, there is certainly something wrong with him at this point. His velocity is down and his control is nowhere close to where it normally is. While the Royals will most likely try to let Soria work his way out of this slump, there is a distinct possibility that he could be on the move if the price is right.

    Soria's contract could be very attractive to clubs looking for a closer. His base contract expires after this season, but he has three years of team options on his deal after that. This would put the team that acquires him in the driver's seat and would allow them to cut bait if it doesn't work out.

    It's hard to say exactly what Soria's problem has been this season, but a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered. Seeing as the Royals still aren't ready to seriously compete for a playoff spot, trading Soria for a package that could help them in the future might be the best way to go.

Brian Fuentes, Oakland Athletics

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    When a player publicly bashes his manager, it's usually a pretty good bet that said player could be on his way out. Such is the case with Brian Fuentes, who recently criticized the way that Oakland Athletics' manager Bob Geren has used him.

    Fuentes, who had been serving as Oakland's closer, is now part of a committee approach. The A's have been disappointing to this point of the season which certainly makes Fuentes an expendable commodity.

    Fuentes' value is buoyed by the fact that good left-handed relievers are hard to come by. He could also be attractive to potential suitors due to the fact that he still has another year left on his contract and a club option for 2013. At 35 years of age, it's not as if Oakland could demand a king's ransom in return for him either.

    While Fuentes hasn't been spectacular this season, he certainly hasn't been a train wreck either. With a 4.63 ERA and 11 saves, Fuentes has been serviceable at the very least. Wherever he's traded, he won't be expected to close out games in all likelihood. This will allow him to perform in lower pressure situations as a lefty specialist.

    One team that could have interest in Fuentes is the New York Yankees. With Pedro Feliciano on the shelf, the only southpaw in the Yankee bullpen is Boone Logan. Adding Fuentes to the mix would give the Yanks a reliable lefty who could neutralize the big left-handed batters in their division such as Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins

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    Perhaps no team in all of Major League Baseball has fallen short of expectations quite like the Minnesota Twins. After reaching the postseason six times in the past nine seasons, it would seem as though doing it in 2011 is a near impossibility.

    At 17-35, the Twins are by far the worst team in the majors to this point. With that in mind, the Twins have very little need for a closer when they can't win games to begin with. This is especially true of Matt Capps, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

    With Joe Nathan injured once again, there is some question about the future of Minnesota's end game. It's unlikely that this will prevent the Twins from dealing Capps, however, as he could command a generous contract this offseason.

    At first glance, it might appear as though Capps is having a lousy season due to his 4.88 ERA. His fantastic 0.88 WHIP tells a different story, though.

    Capps' bad luck could hurt the Twins at the bargaining table, but it could make him very valuable to a contending team at the same time. The peripherals say that Capps' numbers should improve, and another club could reap the benefits at a bargain price.

    Capps can certainly serve as a closer for a fringe contender, but he would likely be at his best as a setup man. Whatever the role, Capps is a prime target for any team looking for late-inning help.

Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets

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    As if K-Rod's resurgent 2011 season hasn't made him an attractive enough option for contending teams, he recently agreed to waive his limited no-trade clause. He is also open to waiving another clause in his contract that could serve as a roadblock to a potential deal.

    Rodriguez's contract currently contains a $17.5 million vesting option, where he will automatically be paid that sum in 2012 if he finishes 55 games this season. If a potential suitor is willing to negotiate a multi-year contract with him upon a trade, he said that he might be willing to void that part of his contract.

    This is fantastic news for the Mets, as their financial issues are well documented. Owner Fred Wilpon estimates that the Mets could lose as much as $70 million this season, so moving K-Rod off the payroll could be very beneficial to the organization. When you add in the fact that the Mets aren't going to be competing for a title any time soon, it makes perfect sense to attempt to trade Rodriguez.

    After an injury-shortened 2010 season that saw K-Rod land on the disabled list after getting into an altercation with his girlfriend's father, 2011 has been a nice bounce-back year for the righty. With an ERA of 1.80 and 15 saves, Rodriguez will undoubtedly be one of the premier closers available at this season's deadline.

Heath Bell, San Diego Padres

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    Heath Bell is, without question, the best and most sought after closer who could be had via trade this season. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Bell is due for a massive payday on the open market this offseason.

    When you consider the fact that the Padres are a losing franchise that is reluctant to spend big money (as evidenced by trading away Adrian Gonzalez), it's incredibly likely, and almost a certainty that Bell will be on the move this season.

    Despite Bell's fantastic numbers in the closer role over the past three seasons, many general baseball fans may still be unaware of his dominance. Should Bell get traded to a contender, however, that will change. With a 1.64 ERA and 13 saves, Bell could be the closer for virtually any team he's traded to.

    Scott Miller of is reporting that the Texas Rangers have inquired about Bell's availability. Should the Rangers land Bell, it's being speculated that he would actually serve as the setup man for Neftali Feliz.

    Although Bell would probably prefer to remain a closer, a one-two punch of Bell and Feliz to close out games would automatically install the Rangers as one of the favorites in the American League, as if they weren't already.

    Overall, a trade to Texas would work well for Bell as he would get a chance to play for a championship this season while showcasing his skills on the big stage in an attempt to land a big contract in the offseason.