In our midseason grades, Robert, Dallas, and I discussed some of the most notable roster moves which San Diego made after the 2011 season ended. While we graded the biggest trades (Latos Deal, Rizzo Deal, Baker Deal), we did ignore two “linked” off-season moves which dealt with the Padres’ bullpen. And as it stands now, the Friars’ move to let Heath Bell sign with Miami and their subsequent trade for Huston Street has actually worked out in the organization’s favor so far this season.
Bell’s Heavy Price Tag and the Trade for Street
Truth be told, I actually wanted the Padres to let Bell walk as a Free Agent this past offseason. Not that I thought Bell did a terrible job with the Padres, but I wondered why San Diego would want to dedicate so much money to a position which might not be of high value to them as the team would be going through a rebuilding phase. I mean, what good would it have been for a team to have a Closer with 40 Saves, but only 65 to 70 Wins? Thankfully, the Padres acted rationally.
So instead of dedicating a deal over 3-years and worth $27 million to a player at a luxury position on their rebuilding team, the Friars went in what appears now to be a smart direction and traded for a cheaper yet just as effective option. So after Bell signed with the Marlins, San Diego traded for (former 1st Round bust Nick Schmidt was sent to Colorado) and signed Street to a deal which pays him $7 million dollars this year and has an additional club option worth $9 million in 2013.
While the money allocated to Street might be a tad high for the small payroll Padres, it is $11 million dollars less than they would have had to dedicate to Bell to bring him back. In addition, the Padres received a decent compensatory pick when they let Bell walk, one which they used on the talented Zach Efflin (#33 overall), a fire-baller who could develop into a starter in a few years. Saved money and an extra prospect aside, the most important thing which has worked in the Padres favor with their move to let Bell walk has been simple: Street has performed well, and Bell simply has not in 2012.
Street Has Shined While Bell Has Tanked in 2012
Even though Street missed about a month’s worth of games due to injury, he has been nothing but “lights-out” so far this season fpr yje Froars. Before the season began, many were unsettled by the fact that Street gave up a career high 10 gopher-balls in 2011 with Colorado. Street however, has yet to give one up all season, and barring an absolute collapse should not even reach 5 by the end of September. Overall, Street’s ability to close out games on a consistent basis has been a bright-spot in an otherwise down year. In addition to his 2-0 record, Street Over 25.0 Innings, Street has nailed down 14 Saves over 25.0 Innings, Struck Out 33, allowed only 8 Walks, given up 10 Hits, and has most impressively posted a 1.08 ERA out of the bullpen.
Bell’s stint in Miami on the other hand has gone almost the opposite as Street’s has with San Diego: terrible. It has been an adventure for the Marlins whenever Bell has trotted out from the bullpen this year to say the least, and in the the eyes of many including this writer, Bell has probably been the most inconsistent Closer in the majors over the first half of the season. Bell has already surpassed his 2010 and 2011 Blown Save totals combined this season, and leads the league with 6 of them. Bell’s inconsistencies are clearly evident in his statistics as he has posted a high ERA (6.75), allowed 43 Hits, Walked 20 Batters, and done so over only 34.2 Innings of work. Worst of all, Bell could be in danger of losing his Closer job full time if his issues continue.
Usually when talented players leave the Padres I have braced myself for the worst over the years as the players usually continued to perform well if not better in their new cities. Thankfully, it appears that the Front Office got this aforementioned Bell-Street situation correct. Although I would like Street to stay long-term with the Padres and be a solid option to close games, his trade value now is probably at its highest and the rebuilding Padres might be inclined to let him go before they pay him $9 million dollars next season. Plus, market for his services is booming amongst teams competing for postseason berths, and the Padres might consider letting him go to add more pieces to their roster.
Nevertheless, it appears that the Friars have come out winners from the “Closer Predicament” which was a pressing issue they faced during the off-season. I just hope that if the team elects to get rid of Street at the end of this month, I do hope that a veteran Dale Thayer can hold down the fort until the end of the season, or a talented youngster like Brad Boxberger can assume the Closer role for years to come starting next season or the season afterwards. But for now, let us just be thankful that the Front Office handled the Bell situation and the Padres did not see a large investment turned into a sunk cost.