The Marlins signed free agent closer Heath Bell, reports ESPN's Jayson Stark. The deal is worth $27MM over three years and it contains a vesting option for a fourth year worth $9MM. The team officially announced the deal today. Bell is represented by ACES.
Bell, 34, has been one of the top closers in baseball over the last three seasons, taking over from Trevor Hoffman as the Padres' stopper and recording a 2.36 ERA with 132 saves and 216 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings. Bell did record a career-low 7.3 K/9 last season, however, so this deal (like any multiyear deal to a closer in his 30's) certainly carries some risk for Miami, especially since we don't know if their new stadium will be hitter- or pitcher-friendly.
The Padres had an interest in re-signing Bell but only to a two-year contract. Dan Mennella of Closer News projects Ernesto Frieri and Luke Gregerson as San Diego's eighth- and ninth-inning options for the time being, though the Padres could bring in another reliever who has more closing experience.
Bell was a Type A free agent heading into the offseason, and under the old collective bargaining agreement, the Padres would've been entitled to a first-round compensation pick and the Marlins' second round pick (their first-rounder is protected). Under the new CBA, however, the Padres still get that first round compensation pick but the Marlins don't have to give up a draft pick for Bell. Instead, San Diego will receive the pick in the slot directly in front of the Marlins' second-round selection, so this means the Padres are slated to pick ninth overall in the second round. Miami retains its second round pick and just gets bumped down to the tenth selection of the second round.
Bell could be the first of several big signings by the Marlins, who have linked to such major free agents as Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle this offseason as the club looks to contend in its first season in its new stadium. MLBTR's Howard Megdal correctly predicted the Bell-Marlins pairing in MLBTR's free agent prediction contest.
It was first reported by Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that Bell was close to a deal with an unknown team. The Marlins were known to be Bell's most ardent suitors with the Blue Jays, Angels and Red Sox also mentioned as possible candidates. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports had the details on the amount of the vesting option (Twitter link).