With the Brewers suffering through a losing season, it's expected that they will sell off players to contending teams in an effort to build for future success. For a losing team, perhaps no position is as superfluous as the closer spot.
However, Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has not been drawing much interest on the trade market, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. That's despite Rodriguez being one of the best closers in baseball this season and looking likely to be the Brewers lone All Star.
Rosenthal suggests Rodriguez's contract is causing some teams to shy away, which makes sense. The Brewers entered 2015 with a franchise-record Opening Day payroll and signed Rodriguez to a contract that would help mitigate costs this season. Because of that, Rodriguez is owed just $3.5 million this season overall. However, that also meant the Brewers chose to backload his multi-year contract and he is set to get $7.5 million in 2016 as well as a $2 million buyout (or $6 million option) for 2017.
Rodriguez has been great this season for Milwaukee, notching 15 saves while posting a 1.00 ERA and striking out 32 batters in 27 innings. There haven't been many closers better than him this year and for contending teams with bullpen issues that's an attractive thing.
That contract may be rough to ditch, though. The Phillies have been unable so far to find a taker for Jonathan Papelbon in large part due to his contract, as well. At this point, Rodriguez's contract might even be seen as worse: Papelbon is only still guaranteed about half of the $13 million he's making in 2015. If he doesn't finish 55 games this year (currently at 26) or 100 between 2014/15 (currently at 78) his $13 million option for 2016 does not vest. That said, an acquiring team would have to be careful not to use him to finish games, i.e. as a closer.
The Blue Jays have shown some interest in acquiring Rodriguez from the Brewers and recently removed Brett Cecil from the role. Addison Reed didn't work out for the Diamondbacks, who are hovering around .500, but they don't seem likely to make a big push. Other than that, there aren't many tenuous closer situations around the league.
It's possible another team looks at Rodriguez to help the bullpen in a non-closer role -- the Rangers, perhaps, or the Tigers or Mariners. But it seems even more unlikely someone would want to take on Rodriguez's contract if it's just to be another cog in a bullpen.
Rosenthal suggests that Neal Cotts could be an attractive trade option for some teams as he's held left-handers to just a .200/.213/.233 line this season and is reasonably priced. Of course, it would be extremely unlikely the Brewers get anything of note for a half-season of a LOOGY.
While Rodriguez seems like an obvious player for the Brewers to trade, we have to remember there needs to be a team that wants to trade for him. Unfortunately, his contract may be a barrier in a potential deal.