Free agent right-hander Heath Bell is drawing serious interest from four teams, including the Mariners and Orioles, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. The former Padres closer is weighing offers from those clubs as he decides which is the best fit, and he could choose a new team within the next few days.
Cotillo writes that Bell is likely to sign a minor league deal and begin at Triple-A with his eventual team rather than jump right into a big league bullpen. The 36-year-old was designated for assignment and released by the Rays earlier this month after posting a 7.27 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and a 66.7 percent ground-ball rate in 17 1/3 innings of work. Tampa acquired the former All-Star from the D’Backs this offseason in a three-team deal that essentially amounted to a salary dump for Arizona. Tampa acquired Bell from the Snakes and catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds, while Cincinnati landed left-hander David Holmberg and the D’Backs acquired Justin Choate and the now-retired Todd Glaesmann.
Though Bell’s career has taken a downturn since signing a three-year, $27MM contract with the Marlins prior to the 2012 season, he showed some reason for optimism in 2013. Bell whiffed more than a batter per inning last season with the best walk rate of his career and was primarily plagued by a fluky homer-to-flyball ratio. This year’s struggles appeared to be more genuine, though it’s worth noting that Bell’s velocity did increase consistently as the season went on.