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Padres duo could provide contenders relief

The San Diego Padres are at the forefront of the upcoming trade deadline, with arguably the two most coveted pitchers on the market - Heath Bell and Mike Adams.

Since Bell took over as the Padres' closer in 2009, his 118 saves lead all pitchers. His 29 saves this season are tied for third most, and he has failed to convert only two save opportunities.

While Bell clearly has both the name recognition and "proven closer" tag, there's a great argument to be made that Adams is actually both preferable and a better pitcher at this stage of the game.

Adams has both a better K per 9 IP and BB per 9 IP rate this season. It also helps that Adams is under control through next season, while Bell will be a free agent at season's end.

The Padres appear to agree with this assessment, reportedly demanding as much or more for Adams than Bell, with owner Jeff Moorad telling Adams he’s “not going anywhere.”

Heath Bell vs Mike Adams 2011 Season

Adams has pitched better than Bell on the most basic of levels – ERA – but his peripheral indicators suggest that his superior performance over Bell is legitimate.

We look to the metric xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching), a statistic that rates pitchers on what they control most and adjusts for league average rate of HR/fly balls allowed, and is used as a predictive measure for future performance. Adams' Expected Fielding Independent Pitching comes in over a full run lower than Heath Bell's.

Not only has Adams been an impact reliever for the Padres, but he’s been arguably the league’s best reliever since the start of the 2009 season. His 1.33 ERA over the last three seasons leads all pitchers with a minimum of 125 innings pitched.

While no team in the thick of the playoff race would pass up quality relief, if the Padres decide to trade either of these relievers, which contenders could use them the most?

Despite leading their divisions, the Detroit Tigers (4.70 ERA) and Texas Rangers (4.51) rank 29th and 27th respectively in team ERA by relievers.

Plus the St. Louis Cardinals' 19 blown saves are second-worst in the majors, while the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 18 blown saves, could use some back end help if they look to catch the Rangers in the AL West.