There’s no need to rehash the debate as to whether the Mets—in gentle terms—misused Heath Bell. The pitcher believes it. He uses as fuel the idea that then-pitching coach Rick Peterson didn’t like him; that the club underestimated his talents and used him as the extra guy and never gave him a real chance; and that they traded him for nothing.
It’s perspective-based and moderately true.
But he certainly can’t blame the Mets for his current position—a position that could be called a predicament; a predicament in which he’s also engulfed the Padres.
The club’s lives would’ve been much easier had they traded Bell before Bell’s idiotic behaviors and “honesty” boxed them in.
Bell’s got an outgoing personality and as long as he’s pitching well, it’s tolerated; but there are clubs in baseball who wouldn’t want him as their spokesman—he’d be a better fit on a veteran team that’s going to keep him in check.
He’s pitched well this season. The decline in his strikeout numbers is a worry to some, but judging from last night’s blown save against the Mets, I’d say the dip in velocity from 98 to 93 is one reason; and the loss of command in his breaking pitches is the other. He’s not allowing any more homers than he did in earlier years with the Padres, so hitters aren’t squaring him up any better than they did before—that would be my focus before shunning him due to numbers.
But Bell’s mouth is again running him afoul of his front office even if they don’t admit it. What was the purpose of the pitcher openly stating that if the Padres offer him arbitration after the season that he’ll take it? Was he trying to hurt them for not offering him a long-term deal and for listening to trade offers? Was he trying to expedite his departure from San Diego in a Machiavellian, scheming way? Or did he just speak his mind without considering the consequences?
Regardless of the specific circumstances, the Padres are in a terrible position now. Bell’s value wasn’t as high as it once was because of the declining K-rate and that he’s a free agent at the end of the year. They were asking for a lot in a trade. Now it’s worse because the Padres tenuous situation is known—all because of Bell’s yapping. He’s going to get a big award in arbitration if it’s offered; they really can’t get full value in trading him now; and if they do keep him, they’re likely to be going through this again next year.
Bell’s not getting through waivers in August and the claiming team will give up a fraction of the minimized offers the Padres were getting a few weeks ago.
In essence, it makes no sense to trade him now.
Here’s what I would do if I were the Padres: I’d keep him, offer him arbitration after the season, wait to see where the other available closers on the market—Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Brad Lidge—wind up, then trade Bell to a closer-hungry team and get him out of town.
It’s too late to get all they could’ve gotten for him. They have to cut their losses and let Bell be someone else’s problem since he’s no longer much of an asset and the market is flooded with closers.
I’m sure they wish they’d done it earlier.