The Padres' late-season collapse has no doubt been tough to take for San Diego fans, but it could get even tougher when and if the Friars revert to their cost-effective ways. San Diego's unexpected playoff push extended Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell's stays with the club, and while the Padres have no ready answer to replace Gonzalez at first base, their deep bullpen may lead to Bell's departure.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that San Diego "will at least consider" dealing Bell and installing Mike Adams as the closer going into 2011. Bell agreed to a one-year, $4MM deal last winter to avoid arbitration, but Olney predicts that Bell could earn in the range of $6-$8MM next year, when he hits arbitration for the final time. The Padres have the payroll space to pay Bell that much if they wanted to (as Cot's Baseball Contracts notes, the Friars have a measly $1.1MM committed to players for next season), but that type of outlay on a closer is a luxury that small-market teams usually can't afford.
Adams, meanwhile, made $1MM this season and is entering his second arbitration year. After posting a 1.84 ERA, a 10.2 K/9 rate and a 3.78 K/BB ratio over his three years in San Diego, Adams is sure to earn a nice raise, but it will still fall below Bell's $4MM earnings from this season. If the Pads were to offer Adams a two-year contract worth $5.5MM, Adams would probably accept to gain a bit of security in case he struggles finishing games. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently looked at how Adams' contract situation compared to that of Oakland's Michael Wuertz.
Bell is no stranger to the trade market. His name popped up in multiple rumors when Joe Nathan was injured last spring and was even whispered to be on the block at the July trade deadline when San Diego was in first place. If the Padres shop him around again this winter, the White Sox, Diamondbacks, Angels and Rays are a few of the clubs who could be looking for a proven closer. The Braves and Cardinals could also be added to that list if Billy Wagner and Ryan Franklin both retire.