The Padres avoided arbitration with Heath Bell, agreeing to terms on a one-year, $7.5MM deal, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). The closer was arbitration eligible for the third time after making $4MM in 2010. Bell, an ACES client, is set to hit free agency after the season.
Bell had expressed interest in a multiyear deal, but it wouldn't be easy for the Padres to commit $7.5MM-plus on an annual basis when their payroll sits under $50MM. GM Jed Hoyer hasn't publicly ruled out an extension, but at this point it appears that Bell is headed for the open market after the season, where he'll be joined by closers Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps and others.
Bell posted a 1.93 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 70 innings last year. He made his second consecutive All-Star team and saved 47 games, anchoring the Padres' fine bullpen.
Though Bud Black's 'pen will look considerably different in 2011, Bell, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson will return. Chad Qualls is nearing a deal with the Padres and his presence will help offset the loss of Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos.