As we close in on the July 31st MLB trade deadline, many teams are in the market for a shutdown closer.
Closers can serve two purposes for these teams.
In the case of the St. Louis Cardinals, Fernando Salas has been more or less serviceable, but without Eduardo Sanchez, they could use another option in the ninth inning.
Other teams hope to make use of a closer acting as a lights-out setup man.
Regardless, closers are often on the trading block at the deadline because they are a luxury for teams that simply aren't winning many games.
Here are some of the top closers likely to find themselves in new uniforms come August.
Stats: 3.92 ERA, 16 Saves
The rumor mill hasn't yielded much on Joakim Soria, but it's reasonable to expect that 12 games out of first and essentially out of the running, the Royals might as well trade their closer. He had trouble in May, but has recovered admirably in the past two months.
It also makes sense for the Royals to trade him, given his $6 million contract if he finishes 55 games.
Kansas City claims that it would take a lot to get Soria, but I think that as the deadline approaches teams will become interested in offering for him.
The Royals also know that they have Aaron Crow ready to take over that role, should he be needed.
Like other closers, including Huston Street and Kevin Gregg, there's not a lot of buzz surrounding Soria, but he is a prime candidate to be moved, should his team fall further out of contention.
Stats: 3.44 ERA, 23 Saves
Brandon League is currently among the top in the American League in saves.
After taking over for David Aardsma, he's performed admirably and earned All-Star honors this year. After a brief meltdown period, in which he just couldn't get it together, he has been nearly lights out the whole season.
He's also the Mariners' most valuable trade commodity at this point.
The team doesn't have a lot of hard-throwing bullpen arms that could realistically take over for League, and Aardsma may not pitch next year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
However, the Mariners recognize that League could net them a nice prospect or two from a team in need of a shutdown arm.
Teams have already inquired about him, and M's GM Jack Zduriencik recognizes that closers tend to be replaceable, demonstrated by his dealing All-Star J.J Putz as soon as he took over in Seattle.
With League being the team's best trade chip, the M's are fully willing to field offers and see what they can get for League.
Stats: 3.43 ERA, 25 Saves
With the Marlins in dead last in the NL East at 14.5 games back, you have to believe they're willing to trade their closer, Nunez.
There's plenty of speculation already, and some of the Marlins beat writers are saying there's a good chance he is traded by the deadline. Nunez would be due over $5 million next year, and the Marlins would be wise to sell high on him.
Nunez really hasn't been anything special, and his stats suggest that he'd be a better fit without the game on the line as a setup man, with only 82 percent of his chances being converted (81 out of 99).
With the buzz surrounding Nunez, expect him to be one of the better relief options at the deadline.
Stats: 2.61 ERA, 28 Saves
Fourteen games out in the NL West division, the Padres know that they can get premium value out of Bell in this seller's market.
He's stated that he is more than willing to be used in a setup role, as well.
At age 33, he's also not part of the Padres' future plans, and while they've set a high price on his services, expect a contending team like the Yankees (although he's not left-handed) or Cardinals to make a solid offer for him.
The Phillies have been rumored to be interested as well, but they may be more likely to make a play for other Padres, such as Chad Qualls and Mike Adams.
Bell is already one of the biggest names this July, and he is the piece that can put competing teams over the top.
Stats: 2.25 ERA, 9 Saves
Personally, I think that Andrew Bailey is the best available closer on the market as we near the deadline.
Plus, like the Padres, the Athletics are in a complete tailspin right now.
At 14 games under .500 and nowhere near contending anytime soon, you have to figure that the A's will keep the phone lines open for Bailey.
Ken Rosenthal has reported that many teams around baseball have already contacted the A's about him, and while it's tough for the team to part with him, it would make sense if they get a talent-laden return.
Bailey is one of Oakland's best players, but they can really improve their offense if they get solid prospects.
He's the best closer available and better than Bell because he can become a bullpen fixture for a team for years to come, not just this year. At 27, he has a few years still left for arbitration and is signed for the league minimum, making him hardly a financial burden.
Rumors have been circulating that the Rangers are coveting Bailey, and they are not afraid to make intra-division deals, as they did with Cliff Lee and the Mariners.