Trading Heath Bell: A Potentially Good Idea?

Does this bullpen look bad?

Closer: Mike Adams (0.73 ERA in 2009)
Setup: Luke Gregerson (2.50 FIP in 2009)
Lefty specialist: Joe Thatcher (1.84 FIP vs. LHPs in 2009)
Middle relief: Ed Mujica (3.61 tERA in 2009)
Middle relief: Adam Russell (3.38 career FIP)
Long relief/second lefty: Aaron Poreda (3.71 tERA in 2009; small sample)
Long relief: Ryan Webb (4.14 xFIP in 2009)

It might not be a fantastic group, but Thatcher, Gregerson, and Adams are excellent, and Mujica and Russell are solid middle men. Poreda and Webb have their flaws, but there are worse trash-time guys.

Of course, the notable characteristic of this bullpen is the absence of Heath Bell, the Padres’ ninth-inning exterminator.

This is what the bullpen would look like if he were traded.

Bell, of course, is a phenomenal pitcher; he posted a 2.42 FIP last year. His 94-mph fastball and two plus breaking pitches make him a real asset, even as he nears his 33rd birthday.

Still, at his age, Bell isn’t getting any better, and he’s never going to have more trade value than he does this season.

Bell will earn $4 million this year, and will command a salary much closer to eight figures for 2011.

By the time San Diego has built a contender up again, Bell will be in his mid-to-late thirties (most likely, anyway) and almost certainly won’t be on the team. It makes a ton of sense to deal him before he leaves and/or gets expensive (or injured), Marlins-style.

That money can be saved and used to get some over-slot signees in the draft, or put toward a big free-agent acquisition in later years when the team is close to contention.

While the loss of a pitcher of Bell’s caliber obviouisly weakens a strong San Diego bullpen, it doesn’t exactly leave it in shambles. I’d call the bullpen I started this post with “solid-average.”

The Padres would be stupid to not listen long and hard to offers for their closer. Let’s not forget that relievers can come out of nowhere and replace him. He once was the guy who came out of nowhere.

Tags: Heath Bell Padres

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