MLB Trade Deadline: Heath Bell and 12 Popular Targets with Plenty of Suitors

Matt SAnalyst IIIJuly 12, 2011

MLB Trade Deadline: Heath Bell and 12 Popular Targets with Plenty of Suitors

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    It's that time of year again, when MLB teams begin to separate into buyers and sellers.  

    The buyers, looking to improve their chances at making the playoffs, will be trading from areas of strength to add key players down the stretch.

    The sellers, for the most part, are looking for prospects as they move high-priced veterans and free agents to be.

    As in any year, a handful of players will be at the center of the drama surrounding the July 31st trade deadline.

    Relief pitching always seems to be a vital need this time of year, and San Diego's Heath Bell is perhaps the most sought-after player on the 2011 trading block. A premier closer, he has the stuff to instantly improve any bullpen.

    But Bell is hardly the only name being discussed in baseball boardrooms around the nation. He headlines a list with a dozen more players who will be at the heart of offers made and received this July.

Heath Bell, San Diego Padres

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    With a 2.43 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, Bell has evolved into one of the NL's top closers. He'll be one of the most highly prized players on this year's trade market and should be chased by multiple teams in need of bullpen help.

    The Yankees, Ray, Rangers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and assorted other teams have all been mentioned as possible destinations.

    Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas reported that Bell is open to a setup role if traded, so the presence of an established closer will do little to dissuade suitors from making a run at the Padres' fireman.

    Whichever team wins the Bell sweepstakes will probably have to send at least a couple of solid prospects to San Diego in return. But for that price, the club will receive a tremendous boost to its bullpen.

Carlos Beltran, New York Mets

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    If Bell is the most highly prized arm, Carlos Beltran just might be the premier bat available at the trading deadline. That depends in part on what happens with his teammate Jose Reyes.

    In any event, Beltran is raking in what has been a very nice comeback season.

    His .880 OPS, 58 RBI, 13 homers and league-leading 26 doubles make him an attractive choice to teams looking for a game-changing bat.

    His price tag of $18.5 million could limit the buyers' pool, but not by much. The Reds, Red Sox, Giants and Yankees are rumored to have interest, but they're hardly the only interested parties.

Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs

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    Both Garza and teammate Ryan Dempster have been mentioned as possible trade candidates, but the rumor mill has been heating up as far as Garza is concerned.

    The Red Sox, in need of pitching help due to injury and poor performance, have made their interest known, but they won't be the only ones vying for the 27-year-old's services.

    Garza is currently struggling a bit with a 4.26 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, but prior to 2011, he had four straight seasons of ERAs in the threes with Minnesota and Tampa. Boston knows that he can succeed in the tough AL East.

    Will the Cubs be willing to part with a guy still in his prime, or would they look to re-sign the future free agent themselves?

Hiroki Kuroda, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Perhaps the most reliable starting pitcher whose name has been linked to trade rumors, Kuroda could transform any rotation he joins.

    Although he is 36 years old and therefore not a likely long-term solution, Kuroda has never failed to post solid numbers in his major league career.

    Now in his fourth season, he's carrying a 3.06 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with the Dodgers. Los Angeles is in a tight spot financially. The franchise may be looking to offload some salary, and at $12 million, Kuroda's contract is one place to start.

    Even at that cost he'd be a value to any contender looking to strengthen its pitching.

    However, the Dodgers will surely demand a high price in return.

Ryan Ludwick, San Diego Padres

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    Ludwick has been one of the most talked-about players with regard to trades, primarily because the Padres are notorious sellers. While his .245 average is nothing to write home about, Ludwick has been a great producer despite being buried in a weak lineup and a pitcher's park.

    His 55 RBI are tops on the team—by a mile. Chase Headley has the second-most with 31. Plugged into a more threatening lineup, Ludwick's other numbers should improve to match his run production.

    Remember that he was a 100-RBI guy with the Cardinals. At 32, he still has the pop to add a quality right-handed bat to most lineups.

Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets

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    Like Heath Bell, Rodriguez has stated that he'd be willing to give up his closer role if it meant going to a competitive team. He's also agreed to waive his no-trade clause, making it a virtual certainty that he'll be somewhere other than Citi Field by the end of the month.

    Across town, the Yankees need some bullpen depth following injuries to Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain, but they'll have to fight to win K-Rod's services.

    What's interesting is that his numbers aren't all that fantastic. A 3.16 ERA is quite good, but the 1.41 WHIP suggests that he's due for a fall.

    However, a reputation as a "proven closer" is worth a lot in baseball, and Rodriguez shouldn't have a problem finding a new home.

Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

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    Before hitting a rough patch earlier in the season, Soria was at the very top of the trade market. From 2007 through 2010 his worst season ERA was 2.48, and he struck out well over a batter per inning.

    A top-notch closer with elite stuff, Soria is a hot commodity even after his struggles.

    Any team in need of bullpen help would consider adding this guy, so where he goes will depend on how much the Royals want in return. That's assuming they're willing to move him at all.

    The Rangers and Yankees are two teams that could make a run at the 27-year-old, but Soria would probably need to be willing to become a setup man to make those trades happen.

Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs

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    Third base has been a disastrous position this season. Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria, David Freese, Pedro Alvarez, Pablo Sandoval, Chipper Jones and now Alex Rodriguez have all suffered significant injuries that cost them time in 2011.

    A-Rod is about to be out for four to six weeks for meniscus surgery, leaving a hole at the hot corner in New York.

    In other words, Ramirez could not have picked a better time to have a bounce-back season.

    With an .843 OPS and 15 first-half homers, A-Ram has established himself as a quality option at a position of need.

    With the supply of reliable third basemen low, the demand for his services will be high—and the Cubs need to move some of their pricey, aging talent to begin a necessary rebuild.

Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros

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    The 32-year-old Rodriguez is in the midst of yet another quality season. If he maintains his pace, he'll have his fourth consecutive year with an ERA in the mid-3.00 range.

    Currently at 3.52 with a 1.34 WHIP, he could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for any number of teams looking to add pitching depth.

    For their part, the Astros are not going to be competitive in the near future and could choose to continue their rebuild by moving their southpaw.

    Rodriguez is under control through 2014, making him an appealing trade option for teams who want more than a rental.

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins

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    One-time super stud Francisco Liriano has fallen on hard times in recent years. He's no longer the ace-like pitcher he was thought to be, and at 27, he's now more project than prospect.

    But there are plenty of scouts and organizations who believe that he still has the stuff to be a quality starter.

    Liriano's 5.06 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are ugly, but they will serve to lower his price. If a team wanted to take on a reclamation effort, it could probably get the lefty at a bargain rate.

    Remember that his 2010 campaign (3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) was respectable.

Jose Reyes, New York Mets

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    Of all the players who might be on the block, none is more electrifying than Reyes. The question is, will the Mets actually be willing to let him go?

    It's not yet known whether the club would seek to re-sign its free agent to be, and if Reyes is in the Mets' long-term plans, then trading him won't happen. But if New York is unwilling to meet his $100 million asking price, then it might be smart to move him at the deadline and get something in return.

    Any team that can afford Reyes would be in the running to acquire him, but at least some suitors will want assurances that he'd be willing to sign an extension. If Reyes insists on testing the free-agent market at the end of the year, he will shrink the buyer pool.

Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins

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    The 27-year-old Capps has done a decent job filling in for the injured Joe Nathan, but as is common in baseball, his "proven closer" status glosses over his less than spectacular numbers.

    Taken at face value, his 4.42 ERA might not draw much attention, even if teams were willing to look at his 1.11 WHIP and assume that he's been a bit unlucky.

    However, Capps can earn saves, and that gives him big-time value.

    If the Twins are willing to part with him, they could get a good haul in return. The trouble is that Nathan is 36 years old, struggling and carries a $12.5 million team option for next season.

    So if the Twins move Capps, they will need to find another long-term solution for the ninth inning.

Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs

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    If Chicago does elect to go into rebuild mode, Pena will be another likely trade candidate.

    Though his batting average is usually grotesque, his production more than makes up for it; this season's .225 is outweighed by 19 home runs and 49 RBI.

    At 33, Pena is on the back end of his prime, and teams are unlikely to invest too much in him. But if the price is right, there's always room for a guy with 40-home run power.

    Making $10 million this year, he's a relative bargain.