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.