The Heath Bell signing has been a disaster of monumental proportions, that is something that nobody can deny. It would look like a bad signing even on a smaller deal but when you consider the years and dollars involved — it becomes one of the worst contracts in Marlins’ history. The easy thing would be to trade Bell, pay a bunch of the money he’s owed and forget it ever happened. Should the Marlins do that though? The answer to that may not be as simple as many think.
In baseball, relief pitchers are volatile. One year, some will dominate the league and then the next — they are well, Heath Bell. Last season Bell put up very good numbers in San Diego, something that had become the norm for his career over the past few seasons. Then came this season’s fall from grace for Bell, an epic change in ability that has continued throughout the season. A drop in velocity, and an inability to show consistent control were factors in the downfall of Bell. He lost the closers job and never regained it due in part to Steve Cishek’s exceptional work. There was a point where Bell put it together for a little while but it was not long lasting enough for him to recapture the job he was signed to do.
Besides his on field performance, Bell has made headlines for his off the field comments about his manager and his teammates. Too often, Bell has pointed the finger at others while deflecting blame off himself. This has led to him seemingly falling out of favor in the clubhouse as his teammates sided with manager Ozzie Guillen when the two went toe-to-toe in the media.
If the Marlins trade Bell and it is extremely likely that they will try to do so — they will have to send a considerable amount of money along the way with him. Bell is owed $18 million over the next two years and coming off 2012, there are not many teams in baseball who would be interested in picking up any significant percentage of the tab. Return value in a trade would be low with a team sending a low level prospect most likely. Since relief pitchers are known to sometimes find “it” after a down year, it may be in the Marlins’ best interest to hold onto Bell in hopes he can turn it around. If they have to pay him anyway, why not see what he can do? If he falters again, they can always re-visit a trade. The off the field issues can be worrisome but with a possible switch at manager, some of those issues may work themselves out inadvertently.
It’s clear that Cishek should be the closer to start 2013, he earned that right and it would be wrong to make him compete for the job in Spring Training. It’s likely Bell can’t be worse than he was in 2012 so maybe the Marlins should see if he can be better?