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No Return Policy

The rumors are swirling. The smoke signals are billowing. The new CBA is just about a done deal. I’ll let the guys at Call to the Pen and other sites break down the CBA as a whole, I’m going to focus on one very important aspect of this new CBA. Important to the Padres as least.

Word is, the new CBA has a restructured Free Agent compensation clause. Rather than the automatic draft picks teams get now when they lose a player to Free Agency, compensation occurs only when the team who is losing the player has made a qualifying offer. All reports indicate this “qualifying offer” would be at least a one year deal worth around $12 million.

I can tell you right now, if the Padres offer Heath Bell arbitration and he rejects it, then gets an offer from them for $12 million, he’s not going anywhere. Heath Bell isn’t worth $12 million a year, even in a one-year deal. So what’s this mean for the Padres?

Well, their options have been drastically reduced. They can offer Bell arbitration, and if he agrees, pay him the $7 million and some change a year he will get. Or, they can skip the arbitration, let him leave for Free Agency and get nothing. They can still try to sign and trade him, but with the new CBA this becomes less likely. Teams know they can get Bell just for the price of his contract if the Padres don’t offer him arbitration. Heck, they can get him for the price of the contract if the Pads do offer arbitration and Bell rejects it. There is now less incentive to pull off a sign and trade deal.

Basically, the Padres messed up. They couldn’t have known they would be in this position when they chose to keep him at the July 31st trade deadline. But they should have known it was possible. They rolled the dice and came up snake eyes.

With the Padres now in a position to get nothing in return for Bell, my guess is he stays a Padre. That’s what Bell wanted all along. That’s what the fans want in a perfect world. But that’s not what the club wants. Bell will eat up a large chunk of the 2012 payroll. He will probably save around 40 games. He’ll be a fan favorite. He will represent the Padres well on and off the field. It’s just not good for long-term success and building a competitive team.

The fan in me is excited at the prospect of seeing Bell locked into a new long-term deal. However, the analyst in me knows that unless the Padres raise payroll drastically, spending more on a closer than any other player doesn’t really make sense.

Read more about the potential new CBA here.

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Tags: CBA Heath Bell Padres

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