We saw our first major trade of the season this past week with the dealing of Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers.
It shouldn't really have come as any surprise that the first player dealt was an impact reliever.
Hitting is down league-wide, making it harder for teams to justify parting with their top-hitters unless they receive a ransom-package of prospects in return.
Likewise, it is hard for buying teams to justify mortgaging their future to the extent necessary to acquire top hitting talent.
This leaves the logical choice of dealing for top pitching to help keep runs off the board for the opposition.
A large number of relievers could be made available this season by selling teams.
Rumors have been swirling around the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics already about potentially available arms from the bullpen.
Additional names could pop up, but right now, here are the top 10 relievers who could be dealt and help a contender (in no particular order).
Brian Fuentes has not been quite what the Oakland Athletics envisioned when they signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract with an option for a third year.
His 1-8 record and 4.82 ERA have been a disappointment, however he did pitch well for the team in save opportunities early in the season while Andrew Bailey was on the disabled list.
He has suffered from being misused by former manager, Bob Geren, but has still been ineffective in non-save situations throughout 2011.
A team looking for a closer down the stretch could be willing to take a chance on Fuentes, though. He has converted 12 of his 15 save opportunities and has a 3.50 ERA this season when pitching in save situations.
Matt Capps is in the final year of his contract and could find himself on the move if the Minnesota Twins continue to struggle and deem his services no longer necessary for the remainder of the season.
Capps has appeared in 37 games for the Twins so far this season, 21 of which have been in save situations.
He has saved 15 games while blowing six save situations.
Overall on the season he is 2-4 with a 4.42 ERA.
A team seeking a setup man capable of stepping up to fill the closer role when necessary will have a need for Capps if the Twins decide to place him on the trading block.
Jason Isringhausen's past experience as a closer may keep him around New York a little longer now that Francisco Rodriguez has been traded.
Okay, probably not...
Isringhausen is 1-0 in 35 appearances this season with a 3.14 ERA. He has blown all three of his save opportunities, although he does have 293 career saves on his big-league resume.
Kerry Wood has compiled an impressive 2.48 ERA in 30 appearances so far this season for the Cubs.
He signed a one-year deal with Chicago last offseason to return to the team that he began his career with.
His contract is very club-friendly, at just $1.5 million. He would be an affordable and effective addition for any team in contention to have setting up games down the stretch.
The biggest concern with Wood is always his injury history. With less than $750,000 remaining on his 2011 contract, though, he represents a very minimal risk with huge upside.
Joe Nathan is not having the best season of his career, that is for sure.
After missing the 2010 season, the righty is currently the owner of a 5.82 ERA and as many blown saves as successful saves, three apiece.
He has not reclaimed his role as the closer of the Twins, however there should be teams that would still believe that a change of scenery and a playoff race atmosphere is all Nathan needs to regain his former All-Star form.
He is the owner of 250 career saves and certainly has the experience a contender would want at the end of the game if he can turn his season around.
He is a free agent after this season.
Chad Qualls, a free agent following the end of this season, has appeared in 44 games for the San Diego Padres this season.
The Padres have a $6 million team option for Qualls in 2012, however it is likely that they would exercise the $1.05 million buyout if he is not traded.
His new team would have the option of retaining him for 2012 if they choose to exercise his hefty contract option for 2012.
He is the owner of a 4-3 record and 2.70 ERA so far this season.
The bigger name rumored to be on the move from San Diego is Heath Bell, but Chad Qualls would be a valuable addition to any team that acquires him for a stretch-run at the division title in 2011.
Michael Wuertz, signed through 2012, has been one of the Athletics most reliable relievers the past three seasons.
So far this year, Wuertz has a 2.67 ERA in 28 appearances.
He is a solid arm in middle relief and as a setup man.
The A's may choose to keep him around to solidify their bullpen in 2012, however if he is made available he would likely have multiple suitors for his services in the mid-to-late innings of meaningful pennant race games.
Grant Balfour has been everything the A's hoped for when they signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract with an option for a third year, this past offseason.
Unfortunately, he plays for a team that can't score runs and has fallen out of contention.
Balfour is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA and two saves this season for the A's.
He is one of the elite relievers that will likely be made available before the deadline.
Huston Street's name has popped up on trade rumor sites and message boards this season as a name that is potentially available.
With the Rockies currently four games under .500 and eight games out of first place, they could choose to wave the white flag and surrender their 2011 season.
Street, 0-2 with a 3.29 ERA and 26 saves in 28 attempts, is a valuable trade chip for the Rox that could bring a few MLB-ready type players to help catapult the team back into contention in 2012.
Street remains under team control for 2012. There is a $9 million mutual option with a $500,000 buyout for 2013.
Heath Bell is the top-prize on the trade market for relievers this year.
The 33-year old is the best available closer for contenders to bid on.
A free agent after this season, Bell has a record of 2-3 with a 2.43 ERA and 26 saves so far this season (in just 27 opportunities).
He has earned a trip to the All-Star game each of the past three seasons. Last year Bell finished eighth in Cy Young voting and 25 in MVP voting,
There should be no shortage of teams that jump into the bidding for Bell's services, and no surprise if he winds up in a different uniform within the next two and a half weeks.