On the Block: Heath Bell

Last week Buster Olney reported that teams may not have to wait much longer to start adding bullpen help.  The market is loaded with relievers and teams are expected to make them available soon.

One of the biggest names on the block is San Diego’s Heath Bell.  The 33 year old is certainly no stranger to the old rumor mill.

Though he’s said numerous times that he wishes to remain a Padre, the team appears likely to ship out the highly sought after free agent to be.

There’s a good reason so many teams would love to have Bell finishing games for them.  The right hander has been exceptional since joining the Padres pen in 2007.

Since then, Bell has logged at least 70.0 innings a season.  He led the league with 42 saves in 2009 and converted 47 of 50 opportunities last year to finish second in the majors.

Thanks to his 2010 performance (1.93 ERA, 1.200 WHIP), Bell finished 8th in Cy Young tallying and even earned some MVP votes.

As expected, his career numbers are quite impressive.

Over his 8 seasons, Bell has maintained an ERA of 3.14 and a 1.200 WHIP.  His career FIP is even better than his ERA, sitting at 2.84.  He’s averaged more than 9 punch outs per 9 while walking just over 3, leaving his career K/BB rate at 3.10.  He’s given up about a half a home run for every 9 innings of work and has held hitters to an average of .231.

It’s been more of the same this season for Bell, as he’s held an ERA of 2.79 over 29 innings in 2011.  He’s converted 18 of 19 save opportunities.  His K rate is down to 7.10 on the year, but hitters are only batting .204 off of him.  Bell has yet to surrender a home run this season.

Hitters appear to be making better contact against Bell as their line drive rate is up almost 3% this year to 20.7.  His K rate is down on the year and his BABIP is about as low as it’s ever been (.259).

Even so, teams are lining up to bid on the big right hander.  Over the past few weeks, several clubs have been linked to Bell.

The Cardinals have gotten solid production from Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez at the back end of their pen, but still are said to be interested in Bell.

With the loses of relievers Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano, the Yankees name has come up as a potential trade partner with the Padres.  New York seems almost certain to make additions this deadline to try and keep pace with the resurgent Red Sox.

Neftali Feliz has been nothing short of spectacular for the Rangers this season, holding an ERA of 1.21 on the year.  However, the club has spoken about possibly moving the 23 year old back to the rotation and could look to Bell as their future closer.  Even if they keep Feliz in the pen, Texas could use some help as their relievers have been some of the worst in the league this season.

Even though he’s set to become a free agent after this season, Bell will not come cheap.

On top of being a fan favorite in San Diego, Bell is currently a Type A free agent.  If the club doesn’t get an offer they deem worth their while, they may be content to simply let Bell finish the season as their closer, offer him arbitration and ultimately take the picks if he bolts in free agency.

I understand San Diego fans being upset if the club doesn’t ink Bell to an extension.  He’s a stud and he clearly wants to remain in San Diego.

That being said, I think they should trade him.

The Padres are currently in the basement of the NL West and don’t look to have what it takes to contend this year.  Bell’s always been a desired name, and his numbers put him atop the list of available relievers.

San Diego is pretty much guaranteed at least two top picks for Bell either way, so they shouldn’t trade him simply to trade him.  But I like the idea of grabbing more proven prospects closer to the bigs than simply opting for future picks.

The market is relatively full of bullpen help, but I think the Padres will be able to get an offer from someone that justifies them trading the two time All-Star.

Tags: Eduardo Sanchez Fernando Salas Heath Bell Joba Chamberlain Neftali Feliz New York Yankees Rafael Soriano San Diego Padres St Louis Cardinals Texas Rangers

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