I have no idea how to see a rebuilding process through. But I am from the Internet, so by law I have to pretend that I do. The goons at MLB took away my first guess, which was to spend, spend, spend on international free agents and the draft. But my second guess would be to turn overvalued commodities into prospects. The difference between a great closer and a poor closer is usually just a handful of games, and rebuilding teams shouldn't worry too much about the difference between 70 and 73 wins.
And two teams just might be inclined to agree. The Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics both have closers who are fine grist for the rumor mill. The Royals probably should have traded Joakim Soria a year ago, and they were probably muttering the same thing under their breath when he lost his job at the end of May, but he rebounded to have a pretty nice year. Andrew Bailey had a fine year for the A's, albeit an injury-shortened one for the second straight season.
Both are locked up -- Bailey is entering arbitration for the first time, and Soria has a couple of team options at legit-closer rates. Both are effective-to-outstanding. Both aren't helping their current team do more than languish at the bottoms of their respective divisions. It seems simple, right? Remember, I am from the Internet. I know about these things.
But bear with me for a list-making session. Here's a list of teams that are very, very unlikely to trade for a closer (and why):
Diamondbacks - J.J. Putz
Dodgers - Javy Guerra/Kenley Jansen
Giants - Brian Wilson
Padres - Huston Street
Rockies - Rafael Betancourt
Cubs - Carlos Marmol
Pirates - Joel Hanrahan
Cardinals - Jason Motte
Brewers - John Axford
And with that, over two-thirds of the potential trade partners just became unrealistic for a team looking to move a closer. That leaves seven teams that might be interested in a closer. The Astros, White Sox, and Orioles are among those teams, but you can be sure that they aren't interested in giving up prospects for a proven closer. For those teams, that would be like devoting resources to making an awesome dust jacket for a book that they haven't written yet.
Now we're down to four teams. And two of those teams have relievers on their staffs who earned more than 20 saves last year -- the Red Sox with Mark Melancon, and the Angels with Jordan Walden. Both of those teams are certainly interested in a late-inning upgrade, but both of them can afford to be cool. There's no need for them to panic.
Oh, and there's a wrinkle. There are two closers still looking for new homes -- Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero. In addition to those two, there are a couple of pitchers on the market, Brad Lidge and Kerry Wood, who used to be closers.
And if there's a team that's scared of a long-term contract, and they want Francisco Rodriguez, I'm sure Doug Melvin would drive him to the airport.
This isn't to suggest that the A's or Royals can't trade their closers. Despite having in-house solutions, the Red Sox and Angels in particular would love to get one of Soria or Bailey. Maybe the nightmares haven't stopped yet, and Jon Daniels will acquire more relievers because that's his only hope.
But the point is that it's not quite that easy to trade a proven closer for a gaggle of prospects in this market. The A's and Royals don't have to trade anything. The closer-less teams around baseball have some options, and most of them don't involve trading away prospects. The Royals and A's might be rebuilding, but don't be surprised if they hold on to their closers while they're doing it.