Heath Bell Rumors
The Blue Jays are aggressively seeking an experienced closer through free agency or trade, reports ESPN's Buster Olney. Olney says the Jays have discussed free agents Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, and Joe Nathan, as well as trade target Andrew Bailey of the Athletics.
Padres GM Josh Byrnes said last month he's likely to offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent. Bell prefers to stay in San Diego, and he said in August he'll accept arbitration if offered. Should he change his mind and decline, he'd be an unlikely fit for Toronto for at least two reasons: the closer prefers the West Coast, and the Jays would have to give the Padres their 17th overall pick in next year's draft. The cost to sign Bell would be reduced to the Jays' second-rounder if they are to commit the #17 pick to another team by signing a higher-ranked Type A. Only Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, David Ortiz, and Ryan Madson are ranked higher than Bell. For a closer look at Bell's performance this year, check out Alex Steers McCrum's article at CloserNews.
Signing Papelbon would hurt the division rival Red Sox in the short-term, though the Sox would get that #17 pick as a valuable consolation prize. Nathan is a more reasonable free agent target for Toronto, as they can offer a chance to close and contend and he won't cost a draft pick to sign. Bailey would require a bigger commitment -- multiple well-regarded prospects -- as the A's control him through 2015.
- The Diamondbacks have an offer out to Aaron Hill, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter). The club’s proposal comes with a deadline and team officials expect Hill to wait as long as possible before deciding whether to accept the deal.
- Free agent reliever Heath Bell told Jim Bowden of Sirius XM Radio that he’d prefer to sign with the Padres, Angels or Dodgers (Twitter link). Bell says he’d also like to play for the Red Sox or Phillies.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs argues that the Angels should keep Peter Bourjos instead of trading him. Viewing Bourjos and Mike Trout as players who are getting in each other’s way would be a mistake, Cameron explains.
- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt may ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for permission to sell the team's TV rights, according to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times. This would violate his sale agreement with MLB, however.
- The Rangers aren't likely to bring free agent Brandon Webb back and may explore potential trades involving Yorvit Torrealba, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.
- A's GM Billy Beane and Moneyball author Michael Lewis discussed the inception of the best-selling book with Todd Watson of InternetEvolution.com.
- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will get at least $1 billion if he agrees to sell the team, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). Dodger Stadium and its surrounding parking lots will likely be included in any sale.
- Aaron Cook can see himself returning to Colorado under the right circumstances and Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd has some interest in bringing the right-hander back, according to Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post. The Rockies declined an $11MM option for Cook yesterday, paying a $500K buyout instead.
- Padres GM Josh Byrnes told reporters, including Tom Krasovic of MLB.com, that he'll be happy if Heath Bell accepts arbitration and prepared in case the Type A reliever declines.
- The Diamondbacks value Aaron Hill at about $4MM, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). They had an $8MM option for the second baseman before declining it yesterday.
The Padres officially named Josh Byrnes their general manager today, so the two-year-long Jed Hoyer era is over in San Diego. Here's the latest on the Padres as they prepare for their first offseason under Byrnes...
- Byrnes says San Diego will likely offer Heath Bell arbitration, according to Dan Hayes of the North County Times (on Twitter). Bell is a Type A free agent, as MLBTR learned earlier today. If he declines arbitration to sign elsewhere, the Padres will obtain two draft picks in 2012. However, Bell has indicated that he will accept.
- Padres CEO Jeff Moorad explained in a statement that he holds Byrnes' predecessor in high esteem. “Thanks to Jed Hoyer’s leadership, we are in a far better position to win consistently in the future than we were two years ago." The Padres played to a 161-163 record in two seasons under Hoyer, though that's just one imperfect measurement of his contribution to the team.
- Jason McLeod, who left the Padres for the Cubs along with Hoyer, told Tom Krasovic of Inside the Padres that leaving San Diego is bittersweet in a Q&A about his time with the team.
- The Cubs offered Hoyer a five-year contract, which the Padres declined to match, according to Krasovic.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
The latest Padres rumors:
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts met with Padres owner Jeff Moorad, Byrnes and Hoyer during the regular season finale, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com.
- Most baseball people expect Hoyer, not Byrnes, to join Epstein in Chicago, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- The Padres have internally discussed the possibility of acquiring John Lackey from the Red Sox if Boston takes on most of the right-hander's salary, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Lackey pitched for the Angels when Padres manager Bud Black was the team's pitching coach.
- When Theo Epstein joins the Cubs, he'll likely bring along someone from the Padres front office, according to Center. GM Jed Hoyer, assistant GM Jason McLeod and senior VP of baseball operations Josh Byrnes are candidates to join Epstein in Chicago.
- Contract talks have begun between the Padres and Heath Bell, tweets Center. The Padres are aiming for a two-year deal with an option, while Bell wants three guaranteed years. He's never had a multiyear deal in his career. Center recently wrote that the Padres are in the two-year, $15-16MM range. If no deal can be worked out, the Padres must decide by November 23rd whether to offer arbitration to the Type A reliever.
- Theo Epstein wouldn't tell the people he'd want to bring to Chicago until he's officially part of the Cubs, a source close to Epstein tells Dan Hayes of the North County Times (Twitter link). The source believes recent rumors are "just speculation." Yesterday, SI's Jon Heyman reported that Epstein is interested in poaching some combination of top Padres executives Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod, and Josh Byrnes. Today, Heyman writes that Hoyer is "definitely in the mix for a job with the Cubs once Epstein officially goes to Chicago."
- Tom Krasovic thinks that if Hoyer joins the Cubs he'd bring McLeod with him. Byrnes, a favorite of Padres owner Jeff Moorad, would likely become San Diego's GM.
Some notes from the NL West....
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers spoke with Aaron Hill's agent this week, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The two sides made little progress and didn't exchange figures, but Towers said another talk is tentatively scheduled for next week. Hill hit .215/.386/.492 in 142 plate appearances for the Snakes after being dealt from the Blue Jays, but Towers said he isn't necessarily looking at a multi-year deal for Hill since he doesn't "want to get too crazy about six weeks [of production]. There’s a reason they moved him and a reason we moved Kelly Johnson.”
- Also from Piecoro's piece, the recently-released Juan Gutierrez said he expected the move and hopes to re-sign with the D'Backs on a minor league deal. Gutierrez underwent Tommy John surgery in September.
- The Padres are willing to give Heath Bell a two-year, $15-$16MM contract with an option for a third year, reports Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of an online chat with fans. Bell wants three years guaranteed, but Center wonders if the closer would accept a two-year deal with a partial no-trade clause. Center discusses several other Padres topics during the chat, including what he would want in a possible Mat Latos trade and Kyle Blanks' future with the team.
The Padres will be declining the $6MM options for Chad Qualls and Brad Hawpe for next season. GM Jed Hoyer broke the news during a radio appearance on XX1090's The Darren Smith Show (Twitter link from producer Marty Caswell). Hoyer also said the team was still mulling over whether or not to pick up its side of Aaron Harang's $5MM mutual option for next season.
Qualls will receive a $1.05MM buyout from the Padres but still could be back in San Diego next year, as we've heard the team has an interest in re-signing him at a lower price. After a disastrous 2010 campaign that saw him lose the closer's job in Arizona and get dealt to Tampa Bay, Qualls rebounded in 2011 to deliver a 3.51 ERA and 2.15 K/BB ratio in 77 games for the Padres. Qualls had some pretty severe home/away splits (a 2.09 ERA at Petco Park and a 5.05 ERA on the road), so there's a decent chance he'll choose to remain in San Diego.
It was no surprise that the Padres parted ways with Hawpe after the veteran missed most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June. Hawpe only hit .231/.301/.344 in 216 plate appearances for San Diego. Hawpe had a $6MM mutual option for 2012 that the Padres will pay $1MM to buy out.
Harang, like Qualls, underwent a bit of a career revival pitching at Petco Park --- a 3.05 ERA in 17 home starts and a 4.70 ERA in 11 road starts for an overall 3.64 ERA for the season. Harang will turn 34 next year so this could be his last chance at a multiyear deal if another team chooses to ignore his home/away splits. Harang could decline his half of the mutual option and test the market, though if he doesn't find a multiyear contract, he could lose his chance at coming back to San Diego since the Friars will have their pick of veterans looking for a Petco Park boost.
Hoyer also addressed recent rumors connecting manager Bud Black to the vacant general manager's job with the Angels, saying that the Halos hadn't asked the Padres for permission to interview Black and that Black is happy in San Diego. Hoyer also said that the club has made offers to Heath Bell, but didn't confirm Jon Heyman's recent report that the Padres offered their closer a two-year, $14MM contract. (Both links are to Caswell's Twitter feed.)
Most statistics say Phillies closer Ryan Madson had a better 2011 than Padres stopper Heath Bell. Madson is three years younger, but Bell has tallied three consecutive 40-save seasons. Both righties are Type A free agents, and guessing their contracts is an interesting exercise.
In the last three years, Madson has increased his strikeout rate to more than a batter per inning while maintaining strong walk and groundball rates. He had a reputation as someone who was better off in the eighth than the ninth inning heading into this year, but Madson silenced those critics by converting 32 of 34 opportunities once pressed into duty. He's represented by Scott Boras, and will find a three-year deal with ease. No free agent reliever has gotten a four-year deal since Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink four years ago, but I think Madson has a shot.
Bell experienced a marked decline in strikeout rate this year, showing signs of his old rate only in September. He still limited hits and home runs and converted 43 of 48 save opportunities. Bell wants and expects to remain in San Diego, saying in August that he'd accept arbitration if the Padres offer. Padres owner Jeff Moorad said one year was preferable to the team in some ways. It was reported later that month that the Padres offered a two-year, $14MM deal while Bell was seeking $27-30MM over three years. Bell is represented by ACES, an agency known for getting strong multiyear deals for veteran free agents.
For the sake of argument, let's say both relievers reach the open market. That's not hard to picture with Madson, who will certainly cost a draft pick to sign. For Bell to reach the open market, the Padres would probably have to decline to offer him arbitration. So in this scenario Madson costs a draft pick to sign and Bell does not. Working under these assumptions, which reliever gets a bigger overall contract, Madson or Bell?
The Padres' victory last night gave them a 71-91 record for the 2011 season and, as small consolation, the seventh overall pick in next year's amateur draft. There won't be daily Adrian Gonzalez rumors out of San Diego this winter, but it will be an interesting offseason nonetheless for the Friars. Here's the latest...
- The Padres won't pick up Chad Qualls' $6MM option for next season, a source tells Dan Hayes of the North County Times (Twitter link). San Diego will instead pay the $1.05MM to buy Qualls out but the club is still interested in bringing back the veteran right-hander.
- Also from Hayes, no decision has been made yet about Aaron Harang. The Padres and Harang share a $5MM mutual option for 2012; Harang would get a $500K buyout if the option isn't exercised.
- "My gut feeling is that I will be here [in 2012],” Heath Bell tells Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "They have my number. They know I want to stay. I think they’re going to take advantage of that."
- Randy Ready will not be returning as San Diego's hitting coach next season, according to a team press release. The rest of the club's coaching staff will remain intact.
- Dan Hayes hears from a source that Sean Berry and Phil Plantier are being considered for the hitting coaches' job next year (Twitter link). Both men could end up being hired as GM Jed Hoyer said the Padres will have two hitting coaches next season, tweets Tom Krasovic of the Inside The Padres blog.
- The Padres will focus on run prevention this winter and look to add starting pitching, writes MLB.com's Corey Brock. The club will also look to acquire some depth for the bench and, as always, some hitting.
- Owner Jeff Moorad said the Padres lost $1.6MM in 2011, tweets Hayes. Moorad also said he hopes to have a new TV contract for the team finalized by New Year's Day.