Heath Bell Rumors

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.



Rays Designate Heath Bell For Assignment

The Rays have designated Heath Bell for assignment, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter).  It’s a potentially costly decision for Tampa Bay as they’re on the hook for $5.5MM of Bell’s $9MM salary.

The Rays can theoretically get out from under their financial obligation to Bell if they find a trade partner in the next ten days, but that won’t be easy.  Bell, 36, is three years removed from his All-Star form and has struggled mightily thus far in 2014.  In 13 outings (17.1 innings), Bell has 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 has been solid for Tampa Bay for the first month under his extended contract, the veteran reliever has floundered.  Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman expressed optimism at the time of the trade that Bell could enjoy a 2014 resurgence.

His stuff is virtually as good as when he was a dominant closer with the Padres (2009-11),said Friedman. “He missed a lot of bats last year. He commanded the ball better than he had in previous years. He’s just got a lot of things in place that give him a chance to be really good, and it’s about trying to sync them all up.”

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.

In Bell’s place, the Rays have promoted right-hander Nate Karns.


AL Notes: Fister, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays

Whenever there’s a trade that fans perceive as being one-sided, fans will often wonder why their team didn’t get involved in negotiations. The beginning of a recent SportsNet.ca interview with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shows why that might not be as easy as it sounds. Anthopoulos says Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told him that the Jays simply didn’t have the players he wanted in a trade for Doug Fister. Detroit eventually sent Fister to the Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. That Dombrowski apparently didn’t think the Blue Jays could beat that package might seem surprising, but it appears the Tigers simply had a very clear idea what they wanted, and it wasn’t possible for the Jays to enter a higher bid. Here are more notes on the AL.

  • The Orioles didn’t have an easy time dealing Jim Johnson, a source tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Other teams weren’t eager to trade for a closer making a hefty salary, so the offers the O’s received were underwhelming.
  • The Orioles would give up their first-round draft pick — No. 17 overall — if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. That means that, if they’re willing to open their wallets, they could be contenders for players like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz, both of whom rejected qualifying offers.
  • The Rays are hopeful that they can fix newly-acquired reliever Heath Bell, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “His stuff is virtually as good as when he was a dominant closer with the Padres (2009-11),” says executive vice president Andrew Friedman. “He missed a lot of bats last year. He commanded the ball better than he had in previous years. He’s just got a lot of things in place that give him a chance to be really good, and it’s about trying to sync them all up.”

Kevin Towers On Heath Bell Trade

Earlier today, the Diamondbacks completed a three-team deal with the Rays and Reds which saw Tampa Bay acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds and Heath Bell from Arizona.  The D'Backs didn't get big time talent back in the trade, but they unloaded $5.5MM of the $6MM they owed to Bell in 2014.  I asked Arizona GM Kevin Towers what he might do with his newfound financial flexibility.

"We still got some bench pieces that we need to put together, we still have interest in bringing back Eric Chavez as a guy who was a key bench player on the club last year.  We also want to add depth to our starting pitching, a No. 1 or a No. 2 [type], that would probably come via trade.  We have some free agents [that we like], but we'll probably be more aggressive on the trade front.  Also, with Cody Ross coming back from the hip injury, we'll also look into a corner outfield bat," Towers said on this afternoon's conference call.

Without giving exact figures, Towers said that the payroll in 2014 will be "well above where it was last season."  Arizona's opening day payroll was roughly $86.3MM, putting them right around the middle of the pack.

It's safe to say that Bell's tenure in Arizona didn't work out exactly as Towers & Co. had hoped.  Despite that, the GM says that he's still hopeful that the 36-year-old can be a contributor for the Rays.

"Bell's velocity is still very good, his average velocity was very comparable to what we saw in San Diego and what it was in Florida…For Heath its all about location," Towers explained. "He's able to hit his spots..but the thing I saw, he didn't land his curveball as effectively as he did in San Diego.  He had a 12-6 curveball to set up his fastball…I still think he has a lot left in the tank, one thing I've always liked about him is that he has a very resilient arm."

Towers admitted that he was sorry to see left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg go, but he said that he wouldn't have been able to secure the same kind of return without his inclusion.  That return, of course, includes more than minor league righty Justin Choate – it means the millions in financial relief and a player to be named later.  That PTBNL from Tampa Bay, Towers said, will probably be the key player in the trade from his side.  Towers added that the player cannot be disclosed now because of "administrative reasons," indicating that the player has already been agreed upon.

Even after moving Bell, who finished 32 games for the club last season, Towers said that he "won't be real active" in finding bullpen help.  Whatever needs he has, he'll look to find solutions internally.  The GM acknowledged that Randall Delgado could go to bullpen if he lands a rotation upgrade.  KT will also seek out "another multi-inning guy" besides Josh Collmenter.  As for the closer role, Towers declined to name a favorite at this stage of the offseason.

In addition to the trade talk, Towers also fielded questions on the club's decision to non-tender Daniel Hudson.  Even though the D'Backs have now lost their exclusivity with the pitcher, Towers sounds hopeful that the two sides will still hammer out a deal. 

"I think we kind of ran out of time…I'd like to say we were at the five yard line or inside of that, so my hope is that we will come to a resolution and he will be a Diamondback in the very near future.  We just weren't able to finalize anything by 10 o'clock the other night," Towers said, adding that he could see an agreement happening in the next couple weeks.  "I think both sides still want this to happen."


Rays Acquire Ryan Hanigan, Heath Bell In Three-Team Deal

The Rays, Reds and Diamondbacks successfully completed a three-team trade today, the teams have announced. Tampa Bay acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan (and promptly extended him) from the Reds and Heath Bell (pictured) from the Diamondbacks. The Reds will receive left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg from the Diamondbacks. Arizona, meanwhile, was able to shed Bell's salary and will receive minor league righty Justin Choate as well as a player to be named later or cash from the Rays.

Bell-Heath

It was expected that Cincinnati would move Hanigan since they agreed to a two-year deal with Brayan Pena.  The 33-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2013, batting just .198/.306/.261 and tying a career-low with two home runs. 

Hanigan will give the Rays three catchers with Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina already in the fold if Lobaton is not one of the outgoing players.  Molina is staying in Tampa Bay after agreeing to come back on a two-year, $4.5MM deal last month.

Hanigan has long been known as a patient hitter that is tough to strike out, as evidenced by a career 12 percent walk rate and 10.1 percent strikeout rate.  He also has a reputation as a solid defensive backstop, having led the league in caught-stealing percentage in 2013 (45 percent) and 2012 (48 percent).  He is also regarded as one of the best in the game at pitch-framing, a skill that he has in common with new teammate Molina.

Bell, 36, is owed $9MM this year in the final season of an ill-fated three-year pact he inked with the Marlins prior to the 2012 campaign. However, Miami is on the hook for $3.5MM of that figure, so the Rays have him for $5.5MM in 2014 while Arizona has him off the books. Bell rebounded from a dreadful 2012 campaign, to an extent, this past season. The veteran closer posted a 4.11 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Bell saw improvements in his strikeout rate, walk rate and swinging-strike rate, giving the Rays hope that his so-so results were the product of unnatural BABIP and HR/FB marks.

Holmberg, 22, has spent most of the last two seasons at Double-A Mobile, where turned in a 2.75 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 26 starts this past season.  The lefty, who made his lone big league appearance on Aug. 27 vs. the Padres, was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in Arizona's system by Baseball America after the 2012 season.  Baseball America thinks highly of Holmberg's control and likes his chances of reaching his ceiling of becoming a No. 3 or 4 starter.

Choate, 22, posted a 2.88 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 40 2/3 in short-season Class-A this past year. It was the Stephen F. Austin State University product's first year of professional ball, as he signed with the Rays on a minor league deal out of independent baseball.

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that Hanigan was going to the Reds in a three-team deal (Twitter link). John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer later tweeted that the Diamondbacks were the third team involved. The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro was the first to report the involvement of Bell and Holmberg (Twitter links). Rosenthal added that Holmberg would go to Cincinnati. Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reported that the Rays were the ones acquiring Bell (Twitter link). MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reported that Choate and a PTBNL or cash were headed to Arizona (on Twitter). Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted the financial details. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted that the PTBNL is not on Tampa's 40-man roster. 

Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Placed On Waivers: Gallardo, Morse, Bell, Lopez

Here's Monday's list of players that have been placed on revocable trade waivers…

  • Yovani Gallardo — Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) reports that Gallardo has been placed on waivers by the Brewers.  The starter drew interest this summer as a player who could help not just for 2013, but beyond, as he is under contract for $11.25MM next season with a $13MM club option for 2015.  Gallardo is having a down year, but he has had two strong starts against the Reds this month since coming off of the DL.  For his career, Gallardo owns a 3.76 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.
  • Mike Morse — Rosenthal also reports that Morse was placed on waivers by the Mariners.  Morse's teammate, Kendrys Morales, was claimed off of waivers earlier today, giving Seattle two bats to dangle to interested clubs.  Will either player be moved?  We can surmise that the M's held on to impending free agents like Morse, Morales, and Raul Ibanez with the idea of retaining them beyond this season.  On the year, Morse owns a .227/.282/.414 slash line with 13 homers in 301 plate appearances – down from his career line of .285/.338/.480.
  • Heath BellJon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Bell, 35, has been placed on waivers. He came to the Diamondbacks from the Marlins this offseason in a three-team trade that also included the A's. Bell has rebounded, to an extent, from a rough 2012 season that saw him post a 5.09 ERA in his only season with the Marlins. He's pitched to a 3.88 ERA with 10.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate. His HR/FB ratio is at a sky-high 17.2 percent, which has bloated his ERA. xFIP predicts that with a league-average HR/FB rate (roughly 11 percent), Bell would have an ERA of 3.05. His K/BB numbers and the fluky nature of high HR/FB rates suggest he's in for some improvement in the ERA department, but he's under contract for $9MM this season and again in 2014. The Marlins are picking up $8MM of that salary, but he'd be an expensive acquisition. I'd expect Bell to clear waivers.
  • Javier Lopez — Heyman also tweets that the 36-year-old Lopez has been placed on waivers by the Giants. Lopez has a masterful 1.99 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a monstrous 64 percent ground-ball rate. He drew significant interest from multiple teams prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. San Francisco GM Brian Sabean reportedly had exorbitant asking price at the time, seeking top prospect Danny Salazar from the Indians in exchange for Lopez. A free agent at season's end, Lopez is owed roughly $813K over the remainder of the year and seems likely to be claimed.

For a reminder on how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR's August trades primerYou can see who is available to be traded to any team by checking MLBTR's list of players who have cleared waivers.  Zach Links contributed to this post.


Heath Bell Changes Agents

Reliever Heath Bell has switched agents, moving from ACES to Dan Lozano's MVP Sports Group, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. As Crasnick notes (also on Twitter), Bell's former agency seems to have done well in securing the three-year, $27MM contract that Bell signed with the Marlins before the 2012 season. 

After signing that deal, of course, Bell (along with much of the rest of the Marlins team) fell well short of expectations. Expected to be Miami's closer, Bell only managed to notch 19 saves. Even worse, in the 63 2/3 innings he threw, he posted a 5.09 ERA. Bell's performance lagged in 2012 as his walk rate skyrocketed to a career-worse 4.1 BB/9, to go with just 8.3 K/9. 

Bell's current deal does not expire until after the 2014 season. The Diamondbacks possess an option for the 2015 season, but seem very unlikely to exercise it.


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D’Backs Acquire Heath Bell In Three-Team Deal

The Diamondbacks announced that they have acquired Heath Bell, infielder Cliff Pennington, and cash considerations from the Marlins in a three-team deal with the Athletics.  Miami will receive minor league infielder Yordy Cabrera from the A's and Oakland will get outfielder Chris Young and $500K from Arizona. 

The Marlins will be picking up $8MM of the remaining $21MM owed to Bell over the next two years, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel (via Twitter).  The veteran was unhappy in Miami as the club was unwilling to restore him as closer and found himself clashing with manager Ozzie Guillen at points during the year. 

The 35-year-old struggled in his first and only year with the Marlins, posting a 5.09 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 73 appearances.  The new-look Marlins signed Bell in December of last year as a part of their spending spree, giving the reliever a three-year, $27MM deal.  The contract includes a vesting option for the 2015 season which will guarantee him $9MM with 55 games finished in 2014 or 100 games finished in 2013-14.

Pennington has been a member of the A's since being tabbed with the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft.  The 28-year-old was slotted at shortstop until the acquisition of Stephen Drew bumped him over to second base.  For his career, Pennington owns a .249/.313/.356 batting line across parts of five seasons in Oakland.

Young, 29, is set to make $8.5MM in 2013 with an $11MM club option for the 2014 season that comes with a modest $1.5MM buyout.  The centerfielder has been unable to regain his All-Star form of 2010 and posted a .231/.311/.434 slash line with 14 homers last season.  Young played in just 101 games last season, due in large part to a shoulder injury he suffered when he slammed into a wall in early April.  The outfielder now reunited with skipper Bob Melvin, who he developed a bond with during his time in Arizona.

While the Marlins' main reward in the deal is being freed from the bulk of the money owed to Bell over the next two years, they also pick up a former second-round pick in Cabrera.  The 22-year-old, who played high school baseball four hours north of Miami in Lakeland, Florida, made the move to Class-A Advanced in 2012.  Cabrera hit .232/.293/.332 with three homers in 60 games last season.

Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (via Twitter) first reported that Arizona would send $500K to Oakland in the deal.