It’s a common problem that is usually addressed at the trade deadline- relief pitching. Teams with subpar bullpens will typically look to the trade deadline to fix their relief pitching woes. This year should be no different, as many serious contenders, including the Reds, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals, are said to be looking for relief help. In this article, I’m going to be looking at who the best relievers that could be on the market right now.
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
I’ll get Pap out of the way early, since he’s a pretty obvious answer. If the Phillies are sellers at the trade deadline (which, despite Ruben Amaro Jr indicating otherwise, people around baseball think they very well could be) then Jonathan Papelbon is the best reliever on the market. Although his 50 million dollar contract with the Phillies is an overpay, he’s been a proven commodity for nearly 8 years. Ever since breaking into the league in 2005, Papelbon has been a success. His worst season was in 2010, when he posted a 3.90 ERA, but has never posted an ERA above 2.94 in any other season.
Papelbon is doing what he usually does this season, with a 2.27 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 27 saves. Although he’s 32 years old, teams would be lining up to the Phillies asking about him if he were to become available.
Jesse Crain, Chicago White Sox
While Crain is on the disabled list right now, he will be eligible to come off before the trade deadline. Provided that he’s ready, teams will be eagerly asking about Jesse Crain. Crain has posted a 0.74 ERA on the year to go along with 19 holds and just 1 blown save. Crain has not allowed a home run on the year, making him a good fit for a team like Cincinnati who plays in a hitter-friendly park, and has whiffed 46 batters compared to just 11 walks. With the White Sox well out of contention, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be available.
Over his career, the 32 year old Crain has been a serviceable reliever, with a career 3.05 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Crain would be a major asset to any contender’s bullpen, whether in a setup role or as a closer.
Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs
Kevin Gregg has been a huge surprise for the Cubs in 2013, and in a thin reliever market, he’s one of the better options. Over the course of the 2013 season, which Gregg started in the minor leagues, he has a 1.78 ERA to go along with a 1.02 WHIP and 15 saves. The Cubs need to rebuild and are nowhere near to contending. A 35 year old reliever just doesn’t fit into their future plans.
Gregg’s history is, of course, not on his side. He has a 4.02 career ERA mark to go along with a 1.37 WHIP. Last year was particularly brutal for him, with a 4.95 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. Still, he’s been good this year, and that will be enough for teams to chase him.
Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
In terms of salary, Cishek could be the biggest value on the trade market. At 27 years of age, Cishek has been a solid reliever throughout his career. He’s continued that for the hopeless Miami Marlins, as he’s put up a 2.75 ERA and 17 saves. Over his career, the sidearm throwing Cishek has a 2.61 ERA and 1.17 ERA. With the Marlins rebuilding, there’s a chance that Cishek, who is still young, could be in their future plans. However, for the right deal, Jeffery Loria would probably pull the trigger. Cishek would make an attractive option for the back end of almost any bullpen.