MLB Trade Deadline: Ranking the Top 13 Relievers on the Market

deleteth accounethCorrespondent IIIJuly 22, 2011

MLB Trade Deadline: Ranking the Top 13 Relievers on the Market

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    The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching.

    One hot commodity at the trade deadline year in and year out is relief pitching.

    There isn't a contender who would turn down another arm to strengthen their bullpen. At the same time, there are few non-contenders who have any real use for an impact bullpen arm.

    Make no mistake about it, come July 31, relievers will be on the move. These are the top 13 available.

     

    Dan is a Boston Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.

13. RHP Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Joel Hanrahan isn't the 13th worst reliever on this list by any means.

    His numbers (28/29 save opportunities, 1.24 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 1.65 BB/9) are among the best any of any reliever in baseball. His rejuvenated fastball (97.2 MPH on average) has turned Hanrahan into a legitimate lights out closer.

    In normal situations, this would be an easy sell for the Pittsburgh Pirates, perennial cellar-dwellars of the NL Central.

    But the Pirates are currently 51-45 (.531), a record which is good enough to tie them with the Milwaukee Brewers for the division lead.

    Forget finishing over .500 (which hasn't been accomplished in Pittsburgh since 1992); the Pirates have their eyes set on a division title.

    Teams are going to call on Hanrahan, but the Pirates wouldn't likely budge for anything other than a blue-chip prospect

12. RHP Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics

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    Andrew Bailey has reportedly received interest from the Texas Rangers, and it's easy to see why.

    At age 27, Bailey has top-tier closer potential. To make matters even better, he's currently making the league minimum salary.

    Bailey isn't arbitration eligible until 2012, and he doesn't hit the free-agent market until 2015.

    Similar to Hanrahan, the A's are unlikely to give Bailey up for anything other than a bonafide prospect.

11. RHP Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Frank Francisco was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for power-hitting catcher Mike Napoli this offseason.

    After missing the early part of the season, Francisco hasn't been all that great: 5.53 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 2.29 SO/BB rate.

    With Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel in the fold long term, a struggling Francisco (a FA at the end of the year) doesn't offer much for the Blue Jays.

    In the past, Francisco has had success closing games and pitching in the back end of a bullpen. There may be a team or two willing to take a chance on Francisco in the hopes that he turns it around for the stretch run.

10. RHP Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins

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    The Marlins (47-52, .475) are sitting in last place in the most competitive division in the National League.

    Quite frankly, they don't have a chance of making the playoffs.

    Nunez (3.30 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 27 SV) has been one of the better closers in the game this season. If he were to go on the market, teams would be interested.

    The only thing that could hold the Marlins back from pulling the trigger is Nunez' contract.

    The 27-year-old has one more year of arbitration left, meaning that he isn't a free agent until 2013, giving the Marlins another year of relatively low-cost ownership.

9. LHP Brian Fuentes, Oakland Athletics

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    After signing a two-year deal worth $10.5 million in guaranteed money this offseason, Brian Fuentes has been anything but stellar for the Oakland Athletics.

    He struggled when he was called upon to replace injured closer Andrew Bailey, blowing three saves in 15 opportunities.

    His 4.62 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 3.9 BB/9 weren't the numbers that the A's were hoping for.

    Fuentes is a lefty with a fairly respectable track record, however. He would be a potential target of any team looking to add left-handed pitching, late inning bullpen depth or  both.

    The A's might be willing to move him, so they don't have to foot the bill for the rest of his contract.

8. RHP Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Tampa Bay Rays are currently 7.5 games off the division leading Boston Red Sox. Despite their strong play (52-45, .536) their chances of making the playoffs out of the AL East are slim, especially with an ailing Evan Longoria.

    The cost-concious Rays are likely to listen to offers for the majority of their players at the deadline, and Farnsworth has one of the best chances of being moved.

    He's defied most expectations this season, posting a 1.86 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 38.2 innings of work.

    Farnsworth throws hard (95.6 MPH average fastball), and while he probably wouldn't retain his closers role in a trade, he could be a late inning impact bullpen arm for a contender.

7. LHP Sean Marshall, Chicago Cubs

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    Buster Olney of ESPN recently tweeted that the Cubs have no interest in trading Sean Marshall.

    But, with a paper thin market for left-handed relievers, teams are still going to call anyways. Marshall has been great this year, posting a 3.18 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP while appearing in 45 games and 45.1 innings of work.

    He's cut his walks down to a career best 2.0 BB/9, more than a walk per game fewer than his career average.

    Marshall is also signed for just $3.1 million in 2012.

    The Cubs have said they don't want to move him, and they probably won't unless a team makes them a very strong offer. I

    f the Cubbies were offered a legitimate prospect in return for Marshall, it would be hard to envision them saying no given all their struggles as an organization.

6. RHP Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals

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    The Nationals are at least open to trading their dominant setup man, although their price tag is high.

    The Nats have been looking for a center fielder all year long, and Clippard would likely be the centerpiece of a package to bring one in.

    Even though Clippard is controlled through 2016, the presence of Drew Storen makes Clippard expendable if the Nats can find the right deal.

5. RHP Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles

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    Koji Uehara has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any major league reliever.

    In 40 games and 44.0 innings of work, Uehara has compiled a 1.84 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9 and 11.6 SO/9.

    The O's have no chance of making the playoffs, and a fire sale is likely on the way.

    The only thing that might hold the O's back is Uehara's contract situation, which has him under team control until 2015. But all that could be trumped by Uehara's age (36).

    He would be a great addition to any team looking to add seventh- or eighth-inning depth.

4. LHP Randy Choate, Florida Marlins

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    Randy Choate is likely to be one of the most sought after commodities over the next few weeks.

    Of all the lefties on this list, he's the most likely to be moved. He's also having an insane season so far, posting a 1.33 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP, albeit in just 20.1 innings of work.

    Any team with playoff hopes could be in use of Choate's services.

3. RHP Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles

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    Jim who?

    Much like his teammate Koji Uehara, Johnson has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any big league relief pitcher.

    Johnson has been a workhorse all year, appearing in 43 games and 58.0 innings (the most of any American League reliever).

    His 2.64 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 1.7 BB/9 are all numbers likely to have a positive impact on the trade market.

    Johnson would be a great addition for any team looking to add an innings eater and a reliable middle- to late-innings guy.

2. RHP Mike Adams, San Diego Padres

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    There are few setup men in the game as dominant as Mike Adams.

    In 45 games, Adams has tossed 45.0 innings, en route to a 1.20 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP. He doesn't walk many batters (1.8 BB/9), and he can strike 'em out when he needs to (9.0 K/9).

    The Adams trade rumors have been anything but consistent.

    Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted Wednesday night that Adams has been told, "You're not going anywhere" and that Adams will be even more expensive than Heath Bell.

    Then on Thursday, Marty Caswell of XX1090 tweeted that team owner Jeff Moorad hasn't told Adams he won't be traded.

    Teams are certainly interested in the dominant setup man. It's only a question of whether or not the Padres want to pull the trigger.

1. RHP Heath Bell, San Diego Padres

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    Heath Bell is clearly the predominant closer on the market.

    At age 33, Bell is having a fine season. He is 27 of 29 in save opportunities to go with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.

    Bell, a free agent next year, is likely to jump ship for a larger contract once the season is over.

    Bell would bring experience to the back end of a contenders bullpen. He could wind up as a closer or even as an eighth-inning setup man on a team with an established closer.

    Bell himself said that the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals—playoff contenders with thin bullpens—are likely landing points.