There isn't a team in baseball that couldn't use more pitching. While some clubs like the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners have watched their rotations turn into short-term dumpster fires, most clubs' major pitching complaint is that they are an arm or two short in the bullpen. This is of particular concern if they have designs on playoff contention (that's the Washington Nationals).
In the day of the extra wild card, more teams can plausibly strive for contention. While this seeming imbalance between contenders and non-contenders could make for a slow-developing market, the potential benefits for both bullpen buyers and sellers are real and significant. The Cleveland Indians will tell you that Andrew Miller was worth every bit of the price they paid for him. The Houston Astros, on the other hand, pilfered perhaps the game's most valuable reliever this season, Chris Devenski, as part of the haul they received for a soon-to-be-retired Brett Myers in 2012.
What makes for an attractive reliever at the trade deadline? Ability, obviously, is paramount. An out pitch, lots of bat-missing, some sort of track record that transcends small-sample fluctuations. Buyers also value -- perhaps overly so -- experience at closing ballgames at the MLB level. Sellers are looking to enhance their minor league systems and, potentially, to sell high on current overperformers. Dumping present or perhaps future salary may also be a priority. It's early, but let's take a look at 10 pitchers with the best chance of checking the boxes on both buyers' and sellers' lists:
It's pretty ugly in San Diego and nearly time for them to make some difficult decisions. Hand has been one of their few bright spots to date, continuing the upward trend in his swing-and-miss rate (14.7 percent this season, 7.7 percernt as recently as 2015) as his slider has blossomed into an out pitch. He throws hard for a lefty (93.0 mph average fastball velocity) and has easily handled opposite-handed hitters; this is no situational lefty. Do the Padres hang on to Hand and his relatively inexpensive ($1.38 million, with two more years of arbitration) contract, or cash him in now? Such are the calls rebuilders have to make.
Twenty-seven of the 30 relievers with the most saves have swing-and-miss rates over 10 percent. Twenty-nine are over 8 percent. Kintzler is sitting right around 4 percent. That isn't to say he doesn't have value. Kintzler is a big-time grounder guy, and his sinker has been a reliable out pitch for him. That said, his market value would presently seem to be at an all-time high. The big surprise here has been the Twins' level of play this season. This could be an early test for their new front office. They could decide that their play thus far is a mirage, making it an easy call to test the market on Kintzler. Even if they decide that they have a real shot at a playoff berth this season, I'd argue that they should still move him. A big return isn't guaranteed, as he's a free agent at year's end. Get what you can at his market's apex and go with the next man up in the closer role.