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.