Heath Bell Rumors

Nationals, Heath Bell Agree To Minor League Deal

SATURDAY: Assuming he makes the team, Bell will receive a $1M base salary with a possible $1M in incentives, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.

MONDAY: The Nationals have reached a minor league contract with right-hander Heath Bell, the pitcher himself wrote in an exclusive guest column for The Players’ Tribune. The contract includes an invitation to big league Spring Training. Bell is a client of the Ballengee Group.

Bell, 37, was an All-Star closer with the Padres from 2009-11, pitching to a combined 2.36 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 132 saves in 202 1/3 innings of work. That excellent performance netted him a three-year, $27MM contract with the Marlins in their offseason spending spree prior to the opening of the new Marlins Park, but that deal proved to be an ill-fated move. Bell struggled to a 4.91 ERA over the past three seasons with three different teams — Miami, Arizona and Tampa Bay — changing hands often in salary dump trades.

Though Bell has struggled tremendously over the past three years, he does come with some upside and carries minimal risk on a minor league pact. The Nationals already possess a pair of strong closing options in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. Presumably, Bell will battle to make the club and serve in a setup capacity to Storen.

NL West Notes: Hudson, Owings, Gregorius, Giants, Bell, Preller

Daniel Hudson pitched last night for the Diamondbacks for the first time since 2012, when he underwent his first of what ultimately became two Tommy John procedures. He tossed a scoreless frame and reportedly sat at 95 mph with his fastball. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes up the 27-year-old’s comeback, which surely provides some hope to other hurlers who have recently received their second new ulnar collateral ligament. Hudson signed a minor league deal to stay with Arizona, but earned MLB service time as he was added to the 40-man roster and DL’ed all year. He will have over four years of service heading into the offseason, but the club will have the chance to retain him through a $800K option. MLBTR congratulates Hudson on his return to action.

Here’s the latest out of the division …

  • Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers indicated that he may be ready to hand the reins over to a young middle infield combination next year, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports“In a perfect world, long term, I think hopefully it’s [Didi Gregorius] and [Chris Owings] with [Aaron Hill] kind of moving around from second to third,” said Towers. “My gut is that I think it will work. I love both of those guys. Didi is probably our best shortstop defensively. C.O. is probably the best offensive middle infielder we have. He seems to be comfortable at second.” In that scenario, Hill will function as a rather expensive ($12MM in each of the next two years) utility option. Towers also indicated that he may well retain Cliff Pennington, who is arb eligible for a final time. With top third base prospect Jake Lamb seemingly ready for a chance at the bigs, in spite of his difficulties in a brief call-up thus far, it will be interesting to see how Arizona proceeds with filling out the non-Paul Goldschmidt portion of its infield (even after clearing Martin Prado out of the picture).
  • Though the Giants farm system generally does not draw rave reviews from outside, the club is higher internally on its slate of youngsters, writes Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. “We always have what we need,” said club vice president Dick Tidrow. “We have turned down trades for all of these guys,” Tidrow added, referring to the current active roster players who came through the San Francisco system (including its recent call-ups).
  • Former Padres closer Heath Bell says that he hopes to join the club next year after taking the latter portion of 2014 off, Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Bell said that he asked the Yankees to release him when they failed to bring him onto the MLB roster. The 36-year-old righty was highly productive in San Diego, where he pitched to a 2.53 ERA in 374 innings over five seasons.
  • New Padres GM A.J. Preller will, of course, make the call whether to give Bell another run in San Diego. As MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports, Preller’s lengthy to-do list would appear to have a few higher priorities at the moment. After getting his arms around the organization, including most of its minor league affiliates, Preller is now turning his focus to the big league club for the end of the season. “Some of the newcomers, [see if] can they break in, be part of the club in the last month and set themselves up for net spring and get in a spot where they can compete to make the team,” Preller said of what he was watching for. “And for guys like Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, you want to see them finish strong.”

Minor Moves: Whiteside, Texeira, Slowey, Bell, Schlereth

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves from around the league right here…

  • Cubs backstop Eli Whiteside has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, reports Carrie Muskat of MLB.com (via Twitter). The 34-year-old, who saw only minimal action with the Cubs, was designated for assignment on Sunday.
  • The Braves have inked righty Kanekoa Texeira to a minor league deal, according to the MLB transactions page. The 28-year-old, who last threw in the bigs in 2011 with the Royals, threw effectively over each of the last two seasons at Triple-A with the Reds. He had been pitching for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish in 2014 before joining Atlanta.
  • Righty Kevin Slowey has been released by the Marlins, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (via Twitter). Slowey owned a 5.30 ERA through 37 1/3 innings this year, most of which came in relief. He had been a starter for much of his prior time as a big leaguer, and owns a 4.62 ERA over 662 career MLB frames.
  • The Yankees have released reliever Heath Bell, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (via Twitter). Bell, who recently signed a minor league deal, had a 7.50 ERA in five appearances at Triple-A Scranton. In 17 1/3 frames at the major league level with the Rays this year, Bell threw to a 7.27 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
  • The Tigers have acquired southpaw Daniel Schlereth from the Pirates, reports John Wagner of the Toledo Blade. James Schmel of MLive.com tweets that the Pirates will receive cash considerations. This will be Schlereth’s second stint with the Tigers, as he spent the 2010-12 seasons in Detroit’s bullpen after coming over in the three-team Max Scherzer/Curtis Granderson/Ian Kennedy/Austin Jackson blockbuster. Schlereth’s long-standing control problems have been very apparent this season at Triple-A; he’s walked 18 batters and surrendered 18 hits in 18 2/3 innings en route to a 7.23 ERA. On the plus side, he’s also fanned 18 hitters in that time.

Yankees To Sign Heath Bell

The Yankees have agreed to sign reliever Heath Bell to a minor league deal, reports Chad Jennings of LoHud.com (via Twitter). (Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted that a deal appeared to have been reached, since Bell was added to the roster of Triple-A Scranton.)

That makes Bell’s third AL East team on the season. He started the year with the Rays after coming over in trade from the Diamondbacks, and was signed to a minor league deal with the Orioles upon being released by Tampa Bay. But Bell opted out of his contract with the O’s.

The 36-year-old righty has had a rocky go of it in recent years, though advanced metrics suggested that bad luck had explained some of his poor results. But things went from bad to worse in 2014, as Bell owns a hard-to-sugarcoat 7.27 ERA through 17 1/3 innings with the Rays and a 4.22 mark in 10 2/3 frames with Triple-A Norfolk (the Orioles’ top affiliate).

Minor Moves: Heath Bell, Brad Meyers

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

  • Reliever Heath Bell has opted out of his minor-league deal with the Orioles, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Bell had signed with the Orioles in mid-May after being released by the Rays, and the veteran closer pitched 10 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk, posting a 4.22 ERA while striking out 11 and walking six.
  • The Nationals have released right-hander Brad Meyers, reports Geoff Morrow of PennLive.com. Meyers made six starts for the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate this year posting a 7.12 ERA, 4.1 K/9, and 4.9 BB/9 in 24 innings. The 28-year-old, Washington’s 2007 fifth-round draft choice, has battled shoulder and back injuries the past two seasons and has not advanced past Triple-A.
  • Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, seven players remain in DFA limbo: Jose Veras (Cubs), Jordan Pacheco (Rockies), David Huff (Giants), Kent Matthes (A’s), Jason Lane (Padres), Josh Lueke (Rays), and Jason Kubel (Twins).

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

Quick Hits: Holt, Astros, Bell, Simmons

Infielder Brock Holt was surprised when the Pirates traded him to Boston before last season, but he’s doing his best to provide the Red Sox with value in the deal, writes WEEI.com’s Katie Morrison. “I was expecting to go to big league camp with them [the Pirates] with the chance to make the team,” says Holt. “€œThen a couple days after Christmas, Neal Huntington called me, and said, ‘Hey, we traded you to the Red Sox,’ so then I didn’t have a clue what to expect.” Morrison points out that the other player the Red Sox received was Joel Hanrahan, who got hurt almost immediately and then left via free agency, so Holt represents the Red Sox’ only chance of recouping value from the trade (a deal that netted the Pirates a very good reliever in Mark Melancon, along with another interesting arm in Stolmy Pimentel). Holt has hit well this year while filling in at third base, with a .299/.349/.390 line in 87 plate appearances this season. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Astros‘ strong month of May suggests they might not be a punch line anymore, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes for FOX Sports. The big differences between this year’s Astros team and the 100-loss teams of years past are, of course, rookie outfielder George Springer and breakouts from starters Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Keuchel and McHugh didn’t look like important parts of the Astros’ future before this season, and now it looks like they might be, so the next competitive Astros team might be coming more quickly than we think.
  • Heath Bell will opt out of his minor-league deal with the Orioles next Saturday if he isn’t promoted, David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot tweets. Since being released by the Rays, Bell has pitched 6 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing five runs while striking out five and walking six.
  • Reliever Shae Simmons, whose contract the Braves purchased on Saturday, was so good in Double-A that the Braves didn’t feel he needed to go to Triple-A, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Simmons struck out 30 batters in 23 Double-A innings this season, throwing a fastball that reaches into the high ’90s to go along with a good slider. O’Brien notes that Simmons has been compared to Craig Kimbrel and Billy Wagner — like those pitchers, Simmons has great stuff and is a bit small, at 5-foot-11.

AL Notes: Beane, Solarte, Bell, Harrison

Athletics GM Billy Beane may have outdone himself with his most recent round of immense production from unheralded players, writes MLB.com’s Richard Justice. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has continued his torrid pace since seemingly emerging out of nowhere last year, stood out to Beane with his somewhat hidden elite athleticism and extreme competitiveness. Now, reclamation project Jesse Chavez is taking the league by storm from the mound. “We liked him in the minor leagues,” Beane explained, “and felt he’d never really got an opportunity in the big leagues.” While Beane’s much-publicized success with statistical analysis has required consistent adaptation to maintain an edge, he says that the club identified Chavez through the same use of “objective numbers” that drove the Moneyball era. “We’ve had to reinvent ourselves a few times,” he explained. “There were things we were doing 10 years ago we weren’t able to continue to do. To constantly solve the challenges we have is not easy. It’s very self-satisfying for all of us.” Given Beane’s comments on Chavez’s lack of opportunity, it will certainly be interesting to see whether recent addition Kyle Blanks is able to harness his potential with healthy, consistent playing time in Oakland.

Here’s more out of the American League:

  • If Chavez is not the most surprising top performer through the season’s first quarter, that is only due to the emergence of 26-year-old journeyman Yangervis Solarte, who sports a .907 OPS in his rookie campaign. The Tigers were keen to sign Solarte before acquiring Ian Kinsler, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. With Detroit assistant GM Al Avila reportedly a big fan of Solarte, the team had also unsuccessfully pursued him as a minor league free agent before the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Solarte’s agent, Peter Greenberg, says that Solarte chose to go to the Yankees because the team had an easier path to a big league opening and ultimately gave him a relatively robust $22K monthly salary in the minors (with three months guaranteed).
  • Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette addressed today’s signing of free agent reliever Heath Bell, who will look to revive his career by starting over at Triple-A. “Bell is a proven veteran pitcher with experience who has agreed to a Triple-A deal,” Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). “We believe he can help our major league club later this season.”
  • Injured Rangers starter Matt Harrison will undertake an epidural injection in hopes of quieting the pain from his back condition, but the next steps remain unclear, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest“It’s kind of put me in the position where either I deal with it or have the surgery and get it fused together and try to make a comeback from that,” said Harrison. “It’s going to be even tougher than it was the last time but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s going on at this point in time and trying not to let it sink in that it may have been my last game.” Ultimately, while he clearly hopes to do whatever it takes to return, Harrison indicated that he would keep his long-term future in mind with the dangerous condition he has. “Obviously your health is most important but I know there are guys who’ve come back before,” he said. “I’m going to give that a shot if I end up having it but if I come back and things are the same or worse as they were before it’s not worth the risk. It’s really not worth me being 29 years old and not being able to walk.”

Orioles Sign Heath Bell

9:17pm: Baltimore has announced the signing, pending a physical.

7:23pm: The Orioles have agreed to a minor league deal with reliever Heath Bell, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The contract includes two opt-outs and will only pay Bell at the major league minimum salary, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com, though of course he will still receive all of the $9MM he is owed under his old contract.

Bell was cut loose by the Rays recently after being designated for assignment. The 36-year-old righty has not been effective since signing his infamous, $27MM contract with the Marlins. Since the start of the 2012 season, Bell has a 4.91 ERA through 146 2/3 innings. While some of his peripherals over that stretch (8.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and 3.99 FIP) suggest that he has not been quite as bad as his results, he has been a disappointment regardless. After all, Bell had averaged just 2.53 earned runs per nine over 374 innings in the previous five seasons.

Tampa took on $5.5MM of Bell’s salary in the hope that he could work a turnaround (and to facilitate other aspects of a complicated trade), but Bell has been even worse this year. At present, he owns a 7.27 ERA with just 6.2 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9. Now, the division-rival Orioles will look for the same, albeit with essentially no risk.

Orioles, Mariners Among Four Teams Interested In Heath Bell

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.

Rays Release Heath Bell

The Rays have released reliever Heath Bell, according to the MLB.com transactions page.  Tampa Bay designated the 36-year-old for assignment one week ago.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise since Bell didn’t figure to draw a ton of trade interest.  By releasing Bell, the Rays will continue to be on the hook for $5.5MM of his $9MM salary, per the terms of their trade that brought him in.

Bell, 36, is three years removed from his All-Star form and was struggling mightily to start off 2014. In 13 outings (17.1 innings), Bell posted a 7.27 ERA with 12 strikeouts and eight walks. This surely wasn’t the result that the Rays were hoping for when they acquired Bell in a three-team December deal.

While catcher Ryan Hanigan continued his solid defense with an improved slash line (.259/.344/.412), Bell floundered.  In his last three seasons bouncing between the Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Rays, Bell owns a 4.91 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. That’s a far cry from the previous three years he enjoyed with the Padres where he posted a 2.36 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 en route to three straight All-Star selections.