Bullpen-starved contenders can target Chapman, Papelbon, Clippard, K-Rod in deadline deals

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Now that the All-Star game is over the next big date to circle on the baseball calendar is the July 31 trade deadline.

Starting pitching tends to generate the juiciest rumors and multiple aces could be available this year–Hamels! Cueto! Price!–but contending teams in search of a shutdown closer or reliable setup men also have some big names to choose from.

Here’s my view of prominent relievers likely to generate considerable trade interest between now and July 31 …

LHP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Everyone seems to assume that the rebuilding Reds will trade impending free agent ace Johnny Cueto, but their plans for All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman aren’t as clear. Chapman is only 27 years old and under team control for next season, so the Reds aren’t in as much of a rush to trade him. However, his 2016 salary will likely be more than $10 million via arbitration and if they’re eventually going to shop Chapman around why wait 12 months and risk an injury in the meantime?

Performance-wise Chapman is dominating as much as ever with a 1.69 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 37 innings while holding opponents to a .178 batting average. His triple-digit fastball and wipeout slider have the ability to transform a contending team’s bullpen and because any team acquiring him would be getting 1.5 seasons of excellence it’s possible the Reds can get more in return for Chapman than for Cueto. The big question is whether they want to part ways right now.

RHP Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon has made it abundantly clear that he wants out of Philadelphia, providing strongly worded quotes to anyone who asks him about the rebuilding Phillies. Of course, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. presumably would have gladly traded him by now if there was a deal to be made that actually brought a decent prospect back to Philadelphia.

In the past Papelbon’s big contract scared teams off, but this is his final guaranteed season and even next year’s $13 million vesting option is around the going rate for top-level closers. And don’t let his personality or the Phillies’ lack of save situations mask the fact that he remains a top-level closer with a 1.60 ERA and 35/7 K/BB ratio in 34 innings this season. Papelbon has a 2.33 ERA and 89 percent save rate for the Phillies. He had a 2.33 ERA and 89 percent save rate for the Red Sox. He can still make a huge impact.

RHP Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers

After saving 44 games for the Brewers last season Francisco Rodriguez returned to Milwaukee in the middle of spring training by signing a two-year, $13 million deal. He made the All-Star team for a sixth time by saving 19 games with a 1.41 ERA and 37/9 K/BB ratio in the first half, but the last-place Brewers seemingly don’t have a ton of use for a 33-year-old closer. Rodriguez hasn’t always generated the most trade or free agent interest in recent years, so it’s possible his being under contract for $5.5 million next season may scare some teams off even though it’s a reasonable salary.

RHP Tyler Clippard, Oakland A’s

Oakland got Tyler Clippard from Washington this offseason to take over as the primary setup man, but he shifted to the closer role with Sean Doolittle hurt and has done a fine job with 17 saves and a 2.43 ERA in 37 innings. Clippard hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was for the Nationals and has struggled at times with his control, but opponents are batting below .200 off him for the third straight year. Oakland is 41-50 and he’s an impending free agent.

RHP Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres

Joaquin Benoit has been a consistently outstanding reliever since coming back from a bunch of injuries in 2010, posting a 2.36 ERA in 351 total innings during that time while serving as a setup man and closer. Even at age 37 he’s logged 38 innings with a 2.39 ERA this season, although his 33/15 K/BB ratio is underwhelming. San Diego is 41-49 and he’s an impending free agent.

RHP Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Steve Cishek saved 88 games in two-and-a-half seasons as Miami’s closer despite few people viewing the side-arming right-hander as ninth-inning material before it happened and then the Marlins demoted him to Double-A on June 1 following 19 rough innings. He returned two weeks later and has allowed just one run in 8.2 innings since, potentially re-emerging as a lower-wattage trade target for a team in need of seventh- or eighth-inning help.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Angels 11, Blue Jays 6: Mike Trout was a beast, homering twice and driving in seven. The second homer was a grand slam in the fourth. Honest question: do you not consider intentionally walking Trout with the bases loaded there? I guess you don’t do that when it’s tied at three and it’s so early but the thought probably at least briefly crossed Charlie Montoyo’s mind. Trout has now hit 10 home runs in his past 19 games to move into a tie for the AL lead. He’s a fairly solid ballplayer as far as these things go, yeah?

Reds 3, Astros 2: The Reds are hard to figure. A lot of the time they look like the second division club their record suggests they are. Other times they’re fun and interesting and do things like sweep the Astros. Baseball, man. Here they rallied for two in the bottom of the ninth with two outs for the comeback win. Nick Senzel singled home the tying run, took second on a throwing error and Jesse Winker singled him in for the walkoff. It was the first time the Astros have been swept all year.

Yankees 12, Rays 1: More like Blake Shelled, amirite? The reigning Cy Young winner walked four guys and gave up six runs in the first inning and was chased after getting only one out. The game at that point was basically over. CC Sabathia, meanwhile, picked up his 250th career win. Gary Sánchez hit a three-run homer and drove in four. Gleyber Torres hit a grand slam to turn an 8-1 game into a 12-1 game late. Just a general blood bath. The Yankees have won five straight games and have now built up a 3.5-game lead over the second-place Rays in the AL East. The Rays and Yankees meet again in a couple of weeks. The Yankees have to like that. They’ve taken seven of nine from Tampa Bay.

Nationals 6, Phillies 2; Nationals 2, Phillies 0: Patrick Corbin was strong, allowing one run over seven, with both Gerardo Parra and Brian Dozier homering and doubling in runs. The nightcap was the Max Scherzer show, of course, with a broken nosed and black (and brown and blue)-eyed Scherzer tossing seven shutout innings while striking out ten. He’s one of the few men who could use that “you should see the other guy” joke and have it be true. He mowed the Phillies down, jack.

Athletics 8, Orioles 3: Chris Bassitt took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and Josh Phegley had a three-run homer as the A’s completed a three-game sweep. Baltimore has lost eight in a row and is on a pace to lose 116 games.

Padres 8, Brewers 7: Franmil Reyes hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning. Eric Hosmer hit a two-run shot earlier. Manny Machado, as we noted last night, thought he had a three-run homer but didn’t, but since the Pads won they’re all probably fine with it. Yasmani Grandal, Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun all homered in a losing cause.

Mariners 8, Royals 2: Hello! My name is Domingo Santana. You killed my father. Prepare to die. Or something. Two homers and five RBI for the Mariners’ right fielder. Who is not left-handed.

Pirates 8, Tigers 7: The Tigers led 7-1 after their half of the third inning but woofed it away anyway. Bryan Reynolds hit a three-run homer in the sixth to complete the Pirates’ rally. He had three hits in all.

Braves 7, Mets 2: Freeman hit a two-run shot in the first, the Mets tied it at two in the fourth and Josh Donaldson broke that tie with a two-run homer of his own in the sixth. From then on the Braves just added with RBI doubles from Ozzie Albies and Nick Markakis, whose pinch-hit two-bagger drove in two. In the end the Braves won their eighth of ten on their ten-game home stand and pushed their NL East lead to four games over Philly.

Cubs 7, White Sox 3: Willson Contreras hit a three-run homer in the first and homered again in the third en route to a five-RBI night. Lucas Giolito lost for the first time in 13 starts, going back to April 6.

Indians 10, Rangers 4: The Tribe put up a five-spot in the first thanks to a three-run homer from Jason Kipnis and a solo shot from Roberto Pérez. Kipnis would add a second homer in the fifth. The Indians have won 10 of their last 14 games.

Red Sox 9, Twins 4: A day after a 17-inning game often comes down to whose starter can simply show up for the longest amount of time. Eduardo Rodríguez did that for Boston, going seven to pick up the Sox pen. Brock Holt drove in three with a single, a sac fly and by drawing a bases-loaded walk. Boston has won seven of eight. The Twins have dropped three of four.

Cardinals 2, Marlins 1: Offense was hard to come by here but Paul Goldschmidt — who didn’t even enter the game until the ninth inning — hit a walkoff solo shot in the bottom of the 11th to end it:

Rockies 6, Diamondbacks 4: Arizona took an early 2-0 lead but it wouldn’t last as the Rockies got to Zack Greike for five runs on 11 hits over seven. Ryan McMahon was the big bat for Colorado, going 3-for-4 and driving in three. Daniel Murphy homered as well as the Rockies’ mastery of the Dbacks continued. They’ve taken seven of nine from Arizona this season.

Dodgers 9, Giants 2: Chris Taylor homered twice and Cody Bellinger went deep as the Dodgers picked up their 50th win on the season in their 75th game. The bad news: starter Rich Hill left after one inning because of left forearm discomfort. He’s going to have an MRI today but he’s headed to the injured list.