Trade Candidate: Heath Bell

The Padres' Heath Bell has been one of baseball's best closers over the past two-plus seasons, racking up 89 saves in 2009-10. Though he's undoubtedly benefited from the pitcher-friendly dimensions of his home digs, PETCO Park, Bell's output is no fluke: He's posted closer-worthy peripherals since establishing himself as a big league reliever.

Now in the final year of his contract before free agency, however, Bell, 33, is a trade candidate on a cost-conscious Padres team that may not be able to afford investing too heavily in a closer. As well, the Friars have excellent setup men in Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson and Chad Qualls, any of whom could capably take over closing duties if need be.

Earlier this year, Bell expressed that he'd like to stay in San Diego, and a rumors of an extension were cropping up. Those talks have cooled, however, and thought it's too early to write off any team, the Padres are six games under .500 through their first 34 tilts and struggling considerably on offense. In fact, Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote that the Padres should think about peeling off a reliever – perhaps Bell – now, to beef up their lineup.

Bell, like the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez, could be an intriguing rental for a contending team looking to bolster its bullpen, and unlike K-Rod, Bell's contract doesn't include that tricky games-finished option, meaning an acquiring team could use him at will.

Here's a list of some teams that could be in the running for Bell's services, should he be made available:

  • Cardinals. You don't need to follow the @closernews Twitter feed to know that the Redbirds have been unsettled in the ninth inning recently. Bell could be the linch pin to a bullpen that can't seem to produce a clear-cut closer.
  • Rangers. Neftali Feliz is a top-flight closer, but his recent stint on the DL exposed Texas' relatively thin relief corps. Bell could be an ideal setup man and spot-closer when the Rangers want to rest the younger pitcher's prized arm.
  • Phillies. Brad Lidge, currently on the DL, is on the mend but is injury- and slump-prone, and Jose Contreras is hurt, too. Bell could solidify the Phils' bullpen with Ryan Madson and the emergent Antonio Bastardo. Remember: The Phils are a win-now team in a big market, so they'd probably make a deal like this if they think it'd put them over the top.
  • Marlins. The Marlins' early success has surprised some, largely on the strength of a revamped, so-called no-name bullpen – including the likes of Michael Dunn, Ryan Webb and Brian Sanches. Still, closer Leo Nunez has struggled in the past, and Bell would probably become their best reliever.
  • Indians. The Tribe are another pleasant surprise getting by with an unheralded bullpen, and Bell could make a formidable late-inning duo with closer Chris Perez.

59 Responses to Trade Candidate: Heath Bell Leave a Reply

  1. vtadave 4 years ago

    Domonic Brown for Bell…

    I kid, but I see him winding up in Philly somehow. Maybe something along the lines of Worley and Aumont, who’s really pitching well in relief this year.

    Not sure why the Yankess and Red Sox aren’t mentioned, as they could surely use a guy like Bell (who couldn’t) and they have the pieces to get him.

    • Mark P 4 years ago

      The Red Sox already have one overweight late inning guy

      • Backup_Slider 4 years ago

        Jenks aside, Bell would fit just perfectly into Dennys Reyes’ old uni. That said, Boston only makes sense if there’s an injury to Papelbon.

    • I see a nice haul in return for Bell. However, not someone as highly touted as Brown. I made a proposal months ago about potentially Ludwick and Bell for Brown. Obviously just throwing around ideas to spark trade rumor’s and interesting banter for realistic trade partners.

      • vtadave 4 years ago

        Pretty sure Brown for a rental isn’t happening, particularly with Ludwick and his negative value in tow…

        • This was right after Brown was hurt and Ludwick had not played yet. However, look at what Ludwick has done in the past few weeks. I concede and made it clear, I was not too serious. Again, just throwing about trade proposals to spark conversations. I’m pretty sure my casual, semi serious proposal didn’t just include a rental. One of the best closers in baseball as well.

          • vtadave 4 years ago

            “past few weeks”? We’re only 6 weeks or so into the season and he’s hitting .195.e He’s also 5-for-32 since 4/26.

            As for Bell, he’s a rental.

    • Bender44 4 years ago

      If Worley maintains good to adequate numbers for the next few months, I can’t see the Phillies parting with him if for no other reason that his cost control over the next several seasons. Not saying the value is off just based on what we’ve seen on the field, but a cost-controlled 23 year old starter (even if he is a #4) is extra valuable to team with budget limitations.

      • Tim Valencia 4 years ago

        he isnt valuable to a team whose biggest strength is pitching. When you have the worst offense in the Majors there is no way you trade a top 3 closer for another starting pitcher.

        • Bender44 4 years ago

          Agreed. I was only addressing the trade from the Phillies point of view. The Padres could and should get offensive help as opposed to pitching.

        • Essentially I agree. I mean, the preference would be to acquire an offensive threat, or high upside offensive minded prospect. That’s what I would do. However, the Padres will go after the best player, or package period. I don’t believe that necessarily rules them out of acquiring a starting pitcher depending on the prospect and upside. Another thing to keep in mind, the outfielders or position players in general who will be coming up at the end of this year and to start next year.

          I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rizzo (the obvious one) and Darnell up this year. You will see Aaron Cunningham at some point. Jaff Decker and Blake Tekotte possibly some time next year. It really depends on how the Padres feel about the internal options. Which, right now many are playing extremely well. Pitching is still going to be a priority. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Padres acquire a highly touted starting pitcher if they believe internally there is not a match with certain teams for an outfielder or an offensive player that fits their specific philosophy.

          I would hardly say there is “no way” that happens.
          Again, it depends on the return.

    • vonhayesdays 4 years ago

      Bell is only a rental, though. cant see phillies giving two young pitchers for a half a year , when Bell has already said he would take less pay to play in home town S.D.

  2. Dave_Gershman 4 years ago

    Nice work as always, Dan.

    I think the Rangers are a logical fit, here. The Marlins as well. However, if the Padres can agree to extend him, which has been discussed, that might work best for both sides in the longrun.

    • I think that Bell for Profrar, essentially straight up, is a pretty fair trade. Rangers already have Andrus, plus another young SS on the way. Padres have a black hole organizationally at short (unless they still believe in Cabrera).

      • longtimepadrefan 4 years ago

        I love Profar, doubtful they would do it straight up. He is years from being a major leaguer and some questions on his hitting.

  3. How about the Brewers?

  4. the Marlins’ bullpen would be much better if Edwin Rodriguez knew anything about platoon splits

  5. Yeah, but those two aren’t exactly the picture of reliability.

  6. mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

    Heath Bell would be a good fit for the Phillies. Francisco Rodriguez would fit well on the Rangers and the Marlins. I know the Marlins have Nunez and he is one of my favorite relief pitchers to watch. He’s going to need someone to cover for him at some point-he always goes through a 7, 10, 14, day period each season when he can’t find the strike zone, and when he does, he can’t get anyone out. I don’t know if they want to pay the prospects and/or money for that. Maybe Brian Sanches can step in there? He’s already there.

    The idea of Heath Bell to the Cardinals is something the rumor writers surely must be speculating on. Bell is the anti-Cardinal. I don’t see how anyone thinks he would fit there. Same for Franciso Rodriguez.

    • JamesOrLurch 4 years ago

      Care to explain why you consider Bell to be “the anti-Cardinal”?

      • Ferrariman 4 years ago

        i was wondering that too. I know MiltonRocks hates the cardinals but at least he could make sense doing it..

        • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

          Hate might be too strong a work, but I would say they are #30 on my list of favorite

          MLB teams.

      • NickinIthaca 4 years ago

        My assumption is that they are either too outspoken (Bell) or too flamboyant (K-Rod) for the organization. La Russa is pretty uptight and stoic, and there’s a reason they call Pujol’s the “Machine.”

        Even last year when Rasmus was apparently having problems, both TLR and Pujols were the first to put it in the media (from what I remember). Judging from this, my gut feeling is that the Cards would stay away from relievers who have criticized their (ex-)employers in the past (Bell), or who have been suspended due to fights that took place on team property (but not in the game – Rodriguez).

        Both players differ immensely from the comfort zone that the Cards seem to operate in.

        • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

          NickinIthaca-you made my point better than I could. Bell is perfect for several organizations-the Cardinals aren’t one of them.

        • Ferrariman 4 years ago

          you’ve got it backwards. Berkman and Theriot are both flamboyant types and they blend in great with the group. The relievers are known to be light hearted people as well, namely Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs.

          The attitude Tony has a problem with (and all managers) is the my way or the high way attitude from a player. The type that step out of line. Rasmus wanted more playing time when Tony wasn’t quite ready to give it to him, minor problem and got resolved.

          Again, no idea what MiltonRocks is talking about…

      • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

        He’s big, (fat), bold, brash, an overgrown kid who delights in carving batters up. He shows emotion. He smiles. He laughs. He scowls. The Cardinals don’t allow players to have a personality.

        I love Heath Bell. My wish is that he remain with the Padres. If he has to go, I would prefer he go where he can be himself. He wouldn’t be able to do that in St. Louis.

        • Ferrariman 4 years ago

          yeah because Lance Berkman has no personality =]

    • jwsox 4 years ago

      the padres GM is smart enough to not trade his star players in the same league look at the peavy deal, and the gonzo deal both got traded to the AL where the chances of those players coming back to hurt them is very very small

      • vtadave 4 years ago

        Well I think the Padres GM is smart enough to trade Bell to the team that offers the most in return, AL or NL.

        • jb226 4 years ago

          Particularly when one is talking about a closer, where he can only “hurt” you if you happen to already be losing.

  7. iheartyourfart 4 years ago

    as a padre fan, i’d rather see the pads trade mike adams than heath bell. bell gets all the press but adams has got considerably better peripheral stats and he’s definitely got the stuff and the makeup to be a closer. In terms of ERA/WHIP he’d be at or near the top anywhere. why trade him?
    Currently he is cheaper than Bell but is due arbitration and will probably earn a salary similar to Bell next year. Heath is a huge fan favorite and at this point the face of the franchise. He has also shown that he wants to be a padre and has even offered to sign a 3 year deal at some kind of hometown discount (figures sound like they would be between $20-25mil).Also if texas is involved, Adams might even be preferrable to bell. He’s a Texas native and provides a lot of value as a setup guy if they stick with Feliz in the closer role.

    If they trade Adams instead of Bell the bullpen remains almost as strong as before the trade, but the padres basically get a wash financially (over the next 3 years Adams as a closer on the open market vs. bell @ a home team discount would be virtually identical), and more importantly they get to foster goodwill with the fans – which is something sorely needed after the gonzalez trade. They definitely won’t get as much in return with adams as with bell since Adams isn’t a proven commodity at closer, but he’s still one of the most dominant relievers in the game and you figure he can at least get you something as good as what the nats got for matt capps.

    • Tim Valencia 4 years ago

      The Capps for Ramos deal was a ridiculous hall for a closer, which reflects how desperate the twins were for a closer. Combine that with the injury problems with Mauer now and I dont think you will see teams over pay for a closer in a trade ever again. That was the exception not the rule.

      • marinest21 4 years ago

        While there is no doubt the Twins overpaid for Capps, Hoyer can still use it as leverage in a potential Bell trade (although how effective, who knows). This is just my opinion, but with the high expectations that they’ve set for themselves, I can totally see Ruben Amaro and the Phillies breaking the rule again come June/July.

        • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

          In hindsight, it’s a good thing the Twins did overpay for Capps. He’s going to be a trade candidate too; teams that miss out on Bell or Roriguez will be in on him.

  8. Bell is not exactly the typical Petco aided pitcher.

    • vtadave 4 years ago

      How so? Bell has always been better at Petco than on the road…

      • AirmanSD 4 years ago

        Now, why do you say that. I believe the stats say that he is close to what he is no matter the park. Lets take a look at him since he became the closer in 2009.


        Home: 1.13 ERA / 8.0 IP / 1.75 k/BB / 2.68 FIP

        Away: 1.80 ERA /

        5.0 IP / 4.00 k/BB / 1.93 FIP


        Home: 2.25 ERA / 36.0 IP / 3.69 K/BB / 1.94 FIP

        Away: 1.59 ERA / 34.0 IP / 2.53 K/BB / 2.17 FIP


        Home: 2.49 ERA / 43.1 IP / 2.68 k/BB / 2.66 FIP

        Away: 3.08 ERA / 26.1 IP / 5.60 k/BB / 2.03 FIP

        Given those stats I would say that he has been a fairly dominate reliever regardless of the venue in which he has pitched in. Since taking over the closers role in SD he has truly been an elite reliever. To say that he has always pitched better in PETCO is unjust in Bell’s case.

        • Commenting the same time. lol

        • vtadave 4 years ago

          Ok so he’s been better at home in 3 of his 4 years as a Padre. Not saying he’s been garbage on the road, not at all, but still, like most Padres pitchers, he’s benefitted from his home park.

          • AirmanSD 4 years ago

            Whats the difference if he has been better at home. The difference isn’t large enough to differentiate. Does he become and above average reliever on the road compared to an elite one at home. I would say no. I think in Bell’s case you can say that he has been elite or close to elite at any venue, and to place the PETCO tag on him is a little disingenuous.

          • I don’t think anyone was really placing the “Petco tag” on him. Just pointing out that, like every single other pitcher who goes to San Diego, his already-terrific numbers benefit somewhat from the park.

          • Amish_willy 4 years ago

            Read my post above. He has nearly an identical era at home/road during the last 4+ years (2.36/2.63) more strikeouts on the road (9.9k/9 vs 9.5k/9) while giving up half as many long balls.

            There is nothing in his numbers that suggests he’s aided by Petco out of context to what he does to opponents elsewhere.

            What were you saying…

  9. longtimepadrefan 4 years ago

    Lots of people should like Bell, but who is going to give up a major league hitter? That is what the Padres need.

  10. “Always”? Not accurate.

    This year:

    Home 1.13
    Road 1.80


    Home 2.25
    Road 1.59


    Home 2.49
    Road 3.08


    Home 2.33
    Road 4.81


    Home 2.64
    Road 1.46


    Home 2.58
    Road 3.65

    In 2010 and in 2007 he was much better on the road. In 2008 looks more like an anomaly, skewing his overall stats. For the most part Bell’s numbers are not typically Petco aided like some others that have substantial inconsistencies. Bell is not the best example of a Petco aided pitcher.

    • vtadave 4 years ago

      Not the best example, but not the worst.

    • Amish_willy 4 years ago

      His career Road numbers adjusted to cover his time with the Padres (2007 – present)
      2.63 era- 154 IP, 127 H, 4 hr, 57bb/170k (9.9k/9).

      He’s actually struck out more batters on the road and given up half as many homerun’s then at home. Of course 12 long balls given up in 325 innings is pretty stout.

      When looking at his career numbers I’m not too concerned with what he did when the Mets where sending him up and down with regularity, but since he’s been a regular with the Pads.

      Obviously on the road he is one bad hombre!

      During his Padre tenure his home/road splits are almost identical. 2.36 era at home, 2.63 era on the road, with stronger peripherals on the road.

      The prettiest # might be his homerun rates:

      Home .42/9
      Road .23/9

  11. icedrake523 4 years ago

    K-Rod can likely be traded after the July 31 deadline since it’s unlikely he’ll be claimed off waivers.

  12. Stuartsmith1988 4 years ago

    I don’t see the rangers. The padres are gonna want a pretty good return and the rangers have the players but why would they want to trade some of the great farm, for a rental who won’t be closing everyday. Once Feliz comes back your gonna end up with a rental closers setting up games who cost you good prospects. Maybe they’ll sign bell in the FA and then move Feliz to the rotation

    • marinest21 4 years ago

      I understand and agree with your opinion, but I’m gonna play Devil’s Advocate here. If the Rangers find themselves in contention in June/July, I can see Jon Daniels making a play for Bell. As the article said, they already have somewhat of a thin pen, and having a set-up man/2nd closer is just as essential, especially when you’re playing with a close lead in that ballpark.

      Just my two cents, but as a Padres fan knowing what Heath may be able to get us on the trade market, I would love to see what Hoyer can reap from the plethora of Rangers prospects, especially at the AA level and lower.

  13. johnsmith4 4 years ago

    I will throw my hat into the Heath Bell rumour ring for the Blue Jays. As noted by others, Bell will most likely sign with Padres in 2012. As a result, AA of the Jays will want the draft picks that come with losing a Type A free agent and Padres will not have to yield any picks if they finish low enough in the standings.

  14. nictonjr 4 years ago

    Previous trades mean little. The White Sox should trade AJ because the last time he was traded the return was Liriano, Nathan and Bonser…

  15. sportsnut969 4 years ago

    This was a foolish trade and just because one idiot gave up one of the best catching prospect for a Stiff Closer does not mean there is not another idiot out there that will do the same IMO desperate trades like this only come around once in a lifetime.

    The Padres may get a good prospect ina deal for Bell but I highly doubt that it will be a guy even as advanced as Ramos or even as close to the major as Ramos was.

    So if anyone one is stupid enough to think we will see a deal like Bell going to the Yankees for Montero well just put the bottle down and run to the nearest AA meeting available because it’s not going to happen.

  16. Amish_willy 4 years ago

    A Ramos type return should easily be attainable for the Padres and with the trading club getting two high picks if he does leave for free agency, there’s good reason to believe he could net more. Not to mention his reasonable cost. At the deadline he’d only cost his new team 2.5m through the end of the year. For a team fighting for a playoff spot, the interest will be very strong.

    To point to some other deals, and like Capps I don’t think any are in Bell’s class but Octavio Dotel brought back James McDonald (and Andrew Lambo) while George Sherrill brought back a good prospect in his own right, Josh Bell.

    2 months of cheap performance Plus 2 of the top 50 or 60 picks in the ’12 draft is worth quite a bit, maybe moreso then a Wilson Ramos type who was only hitting .241/.280/.345 in 71 games at AAA when the Twins dealt him. Suffice to say his value had taken a dip from pre-season rankings.

    Depending on the organization, I’d expect Bell to bring back an organizational top 5 prospect as well as a top 15 or so.

    For a club looking to retain him beyond 2011, there are benefits to giving up something in return. You get to keep your 1st or 2nd round pick while getting an exclusive window to negotiate with him (along with his boost to the ’11 club). The ’12 closer class is deep, but expect Bell to head the class.

  17. Tim Valencia 4 years ago

    At the time Ramos was traded he was Top 50 in all of Baseball. He was traded for a Pitcher going into Arb, so that also adds to the value.

    Your argument that he is worth more because they could get two draft picks for him is weak because no tema would be willing to trade trading a top 5 prospect +more for two potential Draft picks and a half a year of a closer.

    The Ramos trade was the highest value anyone has ever gotten for a closer, and its doubtful it will ever be matched. To say the Ramos trade is a starting point is ridiculous.

    Looking at the top 50 prospects, are there any real matches?

    Yeah im sure the padres FO will love the backlash of trading a All Star Closer and face of the franchise for a Single-A SS

  18. Amish_willy 4 years ago

    Your currect if your under the belief that just because a guy was a top-50 prospect prior to the season means the same is true come July regardless of how well said player fares. That point explains why he fell to the bottom of the top-100 following his down year.

    That’s a BIG statement on your part about “The Ramos trade was the highest value anyone has ever gotten for a closer, and its doubtful it will ever be matched” –

    Ugeth Urbina was dealt for Adrian Gonzalez back in July of ’03. Coming into the season BA had him as the #31 prospect in the game, same as the year before and a top 100 finish two years prior. The off-season following the trade BA had Adrian as the #52 prospect (Ramos #96) – Considering his current ranking and pedigree (1st player taken this century in the draft) to me he was clearly a better return.

    Eric Gagne was dealt for David Murphy and Engel Beltre
    Jeff Shaw was once dealt for Paul Konerko

    It was a great job on the Nats part of getting good value for a guy who was a non-tender candidate after posting a 5.80 era the year prior. Calling Wilson Ramos the best return EVER for a closer seems very questionable to me.

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