What The Padres Can Do About Heath Bell

Against all odds, Heath Bell is still a Padre. He was a trade candidate last summer, last offseason, this July and again this August. But the Giants and Padres weren’t able to work out a deal following San Francisco’s claim, so Bell remains in San Diego.

Here are the Padres’ options regarding their closer:

  • Put Him Back On Waivers – San Diego GM Jed Hoyer could put Bell on waivers in an attempt to save $1.4MM or so in salary. This option seems unproductive – all they would get is salary relief – and unlikely. If the Padres put Bell on waivers again this month, they'd be irrevocable.
  • Work Toward An Extension – Bell has consistently said that he’d accept less money to stay in San Diego. ‘Less’ would still be expensive in this instance, so Hoyer and CEO Jeff Moorad may decide the small-market Padres have more pressing needs given their strong bullpen.
  • No Arbitration Offer – The Padres could simply let Bell walk after the season and thank him for five years of excellent relief. This seems unlikely, but it’s too early to rule it out.
  • Offer Arbitration And Keep Him If He Accepts – This would mean the Padres are stuck paying a relief pitcher about 20% of their payroll and it would also mean no compensatory draft picks in 2012.
  • Offer Arbitration And Trade Him If He Accepts – If the Padres want draft picks for Bell, they’ll have to offer arbitration. Bell has said he’d accept and Moorad has said he wouldn’t mind if that happened, so an arbitration offer seems likely. Even if the Padres don’t like the idea of paying Bell $10MM or so in 2012, they could offer a contract and then trade him if he accepts, like the Rangers did with Frank Francisco last year.

There’s also the possibility that Bell will turn down arbitration, leaving the Padres with two top picks in next year’s draft. That’s essentially out of their control once the offer of arbitration is out there, though.

Nearly half of 6,500 MLBTR readers said in a recent poll that they would sign Bell to an extension. While that would appease some Padres fans and the right-hander himself, it would create as many problems as it solves for a team with such a modest payroll. It’s doubtful that the Padres would give Bell up for nothing though, so at this point it seems likely that they’ll offer arbitration after the season and go from there.