Olney: Contenders will vie to add key relievers at trade deadline

Indians reliever Brad Hand could be one of the most valuable trade targets available this summer before the trade deadline. David Dermer/USA Today Sports

CHICAGO -- Unless some inventive front-office type finds some loophole in the new rules, the trade deadline is cemented this year on July 31 as the last and best opportunity for teams to add talent from outside their organizations.

This is why evaluators across baseball believe there will be a flurry of deals in the last hours and days leading up to the deadline as contenders look to augment their rosters for August, September and perhaps October, and as some teams surrender and look to save add a prospect or two for their farm system and perhaps save a little money from their 2019 balance sheet.

And just about every contending team could be looking to draw from the same pool of players -- the bullpen pieces. "I think there is going to be a big fight among the contending teams to land high-impact relievers," a longtime evaluator said the other day.

Even the New York Yankees, who might have the deepest bullpen in baseball, could use another reliever, in light of the persistent shoulder trouble of Dellin Betances. Part of the reason the Cubs spent big dollars to sign Craig Kimbrel is their anticipation that the prospect cost of trades for the best relievers this summer will be high, at a time when the Chicago farm system is not as robust as that of other contending teams.

The Philadelphia Phillies lead the NL East, but they have suffered a devastating series of bullpen injuries. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team in the National League so far, but they will focus on bullpen help, bolstering the group of relievers who work before Kenley Jansen. The Milwaukee Brewers again bypassed opportunities to pay for starting pitching, and will instead need a deep relief corps again. Now that the Atlanta Braves landed Dallas Keuchel for their rotation, the front office will look to stabilize their bullpen -- and they have a great group of young starting pitchers to utilize, either by shifting some into relief roles or through trades.

Some of the different-makers who evaluators believe will be discussed this summer: