Miami Marlins to sign Heath Bell, pending physical

Marlins move quick to sign Heath Bell. (Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Heath Bell and the Miami Marlins have agreed to terms on a three-year, $27 million contract (exactly what Bell was seeking, a three-year contract) with a vesting option for a fourth year, pending a physical, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Given the new CBA agreement, the Padres will receive a compensation pick after the first round and the pick just before Florida’s in the second round of the 2012 amateur players draft. The Padres win here, as some believed Bell would accept arbitration (as he stated he would, if offered) in hopes of staying in San Diego, that would have handcuffed the Padres payroll during a transition year going in to the 2012 season. Bell would have taken up upwards of 20 percent of the payroll. CEO Jeff Moorad has said he prefers one-year deals and would be fine if Bell accepted arbitration.

Recently, Josh Byrnes, now GM, also said it would have halted some of their financial limitations elsewhere, but would only be for one year. Now, the Padres have to address the set-up role Mike Adams was nailing down and a experienced closer. Look no further, the winter meetings begin next Monday, and many of the big shots will be there on Sunday with many items on their menu.

Heath Bell has been one of the best closers in the game the last three seasons. Since taking over the reigns for future Hall Of Famer Trevor Hoffman, Bell has accumulated 132 saves, wile boasting a 2.36 ERA. He’s been one of the more consistent and entertaining closers in the game. Having said that, Bell’s numbers over the last year indicate he could be on the decline.

Bell tends to gain weight throughout the season, and he’s not exactly the fittest physical specimen — and at his age (34), he seems to be wearing down. I guess it’s a good time to be a closer. His strikeout ratio dropped from 2010’s (although higher than his career average) at 11.06 to 7.32K/9, for a career low. Also, batters are putting the ball in play more against Bell. Last year, Bell went  3-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 43 saves, while striking out 51 batters in 62.2 innings pitched.

The Padres will now look to bolster their depleted pen through free agency or a trade. The free-agent market is plentiful. Here are some free-agent pitchers who could be of interest:

Jon Rauch
Joel Zumaya
Brad Lidge
Francisco Cordero
Mike MacDougal
David Aardsma
LaTroy Hawkins
Juan Cruz
Scott Linebrink
Micheal Wuertz

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a trade to bring in a young, semi-established reliever coming into his own, or a veteran player-prospect package bringing in a closer or set-up man.

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