MLB Rumors: Brian Fuentes, St. Louis Cardinals Trade Target, Released By Oakland

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 29: Brian Fuentes #40 of the Oakland Athletics walks off the field as Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins heads home to score after Josh Willingham #16 hit a walk-off home run in the ninth inning on May 29, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Athletics 3-4 in a walk off. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals' rumored trade target, Brian Fuentes, is now a free agent.

The St. Louis Cardinals' most pressing MLB trade rumor just got less complicated--the Oakland Athletics released Brian Fuentes Wednesday, days after designating the former closer for assignment and attempting to find a trade partner. Fuentes carried a 6.84 ERA across 26 first-half appearances for the Athletics, with the primary culprit being the five home runs he'd allowed in 25 innings. But for a Cardinals team that's struggled all season to find consistent left-handed bullpen help, he might remain an interesting target--especially now that he's available without a trade.

The longer-term worry about Fuentes is his declining strikeout rate; from a peak well over 10 per nine innings, Fuentes has a strikeout rate of just 6.5 in a season-and-a-half with Oakland. He might be salvageable as a left-handed specialist, but the four-time all-star's days as a bullpen stalwart, let alone a closer, are likely over.

Right now the price is right; we'll just have to wait and see how interested John Mozeliak really is in replacing the heretofore-perfect Barret Browning with a veteran alternative. For more news and analysis of Cardinals trade rumors as the deadline nears, stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis.

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