Year in and year out, relief pitchers are usually the most coveted players at the MLB trade deadline.
Bullpen depth is something you can never have enough of, and this season, there are tons of quality arms on the market.
Today, we are ranking the three best relievers who will likely be on the move at the upcoming deadline.
While some deals for bullpen arms aren’t very exciting or newsworthy, these players will make headlines when they are traded.
Let’s get started.
3. Daniel Hudson – Washington Nationals
Daniel Hudson has re-established himself as a very reliable relief option in 2021.
After struggling in 2020 and posting a 6.10 ERA, he has a 2.49 ERA this season to complement a 2.70 FIP and 0.91 WHIP.
Hudson has had his fair share of ups and downs throughout his 12-year MLB career, but this 2021 campaign has been one of his best showings so far.
With the Washington Nationals struggling to stay afloat in the playoff picture, it would be no surprise to see the righty moved.
He is a free agent after the season.
2. Richard Rodriguez – Pittsburgh Pirates
Richard Rodriguez has been one of the very few bright spots in recent years for a Pittsburgh Pirates organization that has suffered through some horrible seasons.
Pirates season (midway)
MVP: Adam Frazier/Bryan Reynolds
Cy Young: Richard Rodriguez
Biggest surprise: Frazier
Disappointment: Mitch Keller
— Jason Shetler (@Jason_Shetler) July 7, 2021
As a Pirate, Rodriguez has maintained a 2.92 ERA, 144 ERA+, 3.47 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP across 191 appearances since 2018.
This season, he is boasting a 2.43 ERA, 2.30 FIP, and 0.78 WHIP.
He has an ERA+ of 170 (which is 70 percent better than league-average) since the start of last season.
The 27-year-old is not a free agent until 2024, but with the way Pittsburgh’s timeline is looking, the team would be smart to maximize Rodriguez’s trade value now.
1. Craig Kimbrel – Chicago Cubs
With the recent news that the Chicago Cubs are going to act as sellers at the upcoming deadline, Craig Kimbrel is going to be one of the most coveted relief arms on the MLB trade block in several years.
The Cubs are indeed planning on being sellers this month, according to sources. Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel appear to be the most likely trade candidates, though others (Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez) could also be available. @Ken_Rosenthal and @PJ_Mooney were all over it.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 9, 2021
In 2019 and 2020, it looked like Kimbrel’s best days were behind him.
He struggled to an awful 6.00 ERA over 41 appearances between those two seasons.
But in 2021, he is looking like his vintage self.
What does “vintage” Kimbrel look like?
Well, back in the early 2010s, he managed a ridiculous 1.51 ERA over a massive sample size of 273 games from 2011 to 2014.
He was named an All-Star in each of those seasons and also received Cy Young and MVP votes in each of those seasons.
From 2015 to 2018, he posted a 2.47 ERA over 208 appearances, so he was obviously still elite.
But then he hit that aforementioned wall in 2019 and 2020.
It was alarming to see him struggle like that, which makes it so refreshing to see the righty flourishing this year.
He has a 0.57 ERA, 1.12 FIP, and 0.66 WHIP across 33 outings this season.
He has fanned 54 batters in 31.2 innings, and his ERA+ of 698 suggests that he has been 598 percent better than league-average by that measure 2021.
The market for Kimbrel will likely be a crazy one, and the asking price will surely be high.
He could be the player that takes a fringe contender to the next level.