As the Mariners losing streak grows to historic proportions, the team once again regresses to the status of both cellar-dweller and seller at the deadline. Brandon League is indisputably the top trade chip the Mariners have at this point that they would realistically consider dealing.
Although the team lost on Sunday, it was relieving to see that Brandon League was still alive back there and his arm hadn't shriveled up or something. For a pitcher that hadn't appeared in over a week, it was nice to see that he was still throwing normally.
The Mariners would like to have him for next year as there seems to be a lack of closer-ready options at the moment. However, as one of the top relief pitching options, Jack Zduriencik is certain to see if he can get a decent return for League in a trade. As I've said before, Z's philosophy tends to deflate the value of a closer to a team, especially if it isn't immediately contending.
With that said, there are plenty of teams looking to add a pitcher with closing experience who can perform in a setup role.
It's no secret the Phillies are one of the best teams in baseball and a front runner for the World Series title. They need a right-handed bat, but also have been shopping around for relief pitching.
They've been heavily linked to Heath Bell, but out of probably eight teams in the running obviously only one can acquire his services.
The fact that the Phillies are in no dire need for relief help -- with Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson emerging -- diminishes a possible prospect package, but the fact that they are going after Bell means they'd still like a relief pitcher.
With Madson returning to the closer role and lefty Bastardo the primary setup man, League would be an affordable luxury that would definitely put this team over the top.
Philadelphia has tried to point towards their Single-A Clearwater team as trade pieces, so the M's can expect a couple Single-A or Double-A prospects in a trade. As an example, outfielder Jonathan Singleton has been suggested as a nice piece that the team could acquire.
The Cincinnati Reds are all over the place as we near the trade deadline, ranging from interest in starting pitchers, to closers, to leadoff hitters, to middle-of-the-lineup hitters. However, it's clear that despite being in fourth place at three games out in the division, the team still sees themselves as a contender.
It's also clear that they can't continue to rely on 36-year-old Francisco Cordero as their closer if they want to remain relevant. Cordero has faded in July and has blown three of his last five saves, and none of their other pitchers have closing experience.
League is definitely a pitcher that would give them a distinct edge in the NL Central. If the M's are lucky, they might get catcher Devin Mesoraco, but probably not.
It's been decades since the Pirates made the playoffs, and this year they are right there at the top of the AL Central. Teams are certainly using that as leverage, although the Pirates won't be convinced by emotional appeals.
Their bullpen doesn't look terrible, but it appears they'd like to add relief pitching and made a move to sign free agent Jason Grilli recently. With names like Koji Uehara and Octavio Dotel on their radar, League may appear a bit pricey for GM Neal Huntington.
However, he's not going to overspend on a bat and if he doesn't like what the market offers offensively, he may be more inclined to trade for a premium shutdown closer like League.
The St. Louis Cardinals lead the NL Central by nothing more than slim tiebreakers at this point. Since former Mariner Ryan Franklin imploded and retired earlier this season, Fernando Salas has been decent as the closer.
However, they are clearly in the mix for top closer help, as evidenced by their interest in Heath Bell, but they're not the front runner for Bell. They'll probably have to settle for someone lesser, like the Marlins' Leo Nunez or League.
As a rookie, Salas can't be completely relied upon, so having League become the closer, or at least be able to step in for Salas when needed, would be ideal for the Cards.
A deal for Colby Rasmus would be nice, but the M's would probably have to add a couple of prospects in addition to League for that to happen.
Another inter-divisional deal with the Rangers, you say?
It's actually not out of the question and makes a lot of sense for Texas. It's clear that they need better arms out of the bullpen, as their relief pitching ERA ranks 26th in MLB at 4.42
They also aren't planning to dabble in the kiddie pool, showing interest in top pitchers Tyler Clippard and Heath Bell. Clearly, as evidenced by the Cliff Lee trade, if they think one player will put them over the top, they will go get him.
League is one of those players. He's shown he can get big outs in the American League, and would be one of the top setup men immediately. The Rangers need a dominating right-handed pitcher, and are trying to move lefty Arthur Rhodes to accomplish that.
In addition, they have a deep prospect farm, and would be able to put together a nice package for League if they can't get Bell.