JULY 15: The Rangers announced that they have signed Bell to a minor league contract.
JULY 5: The Rangers are nearing a minor league deal with free agent Alexei Bell, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 32-year-old outfielder hit the open market after leaving his native Cuba in search of a big league opportunity.
Bell owns an impressive track record in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, where he played for 14 seasons. In 3,441 career plate appearances, he owns a .319/.417/.547 batting line with 138 home runs. He was still running up those kinds of numbers in his final year of action there in 2014, and has top-notch plate discipline with a lifetime tally of 431 walks against just 439 strikeouts.
Since that time, Bell has spent time playing in Canada and, more recently, Mexico. He wasn’t doing much at the plate in a nine-game run with Quintana Roo earlier this year, though it’s hard to read too much into the results in such a short sample for a player who hadn’t played competitively in some time.
Despite his previous success, Bell hasn’t generated much buzz as a free agent. As Ben Badler of Baseball America explains, Bell owns a big arm that ought to work in right. But he doesn’t deliver premium power and isn’t a good runner. While he would have made for a really interesting prospect earlier in his career, Badler says that scouts aren’t optimistic about his potential to be a major contributor at this stage.
Despite those limitations, it’s not at all surprising to see a club take a shot on a veteran who has such an impressive track record. Whether or not he’ll earn a shot at the majors remains to be seen.