Monday, July 25, 2011
Daily Rumble: Heath Bell ready for deal
By Jayson Stark
PHILADELPHIA -- Heath Bell knows what happens to guys like him this time of year. He knows because he has his sources -- ESPN (obviously), his wife (naturally) and, at the top of that list, the most dialed-in reporter in the universe, his mother, Edwina (of course).
"I think my wife is more worried about it all," says the Padres' very own Human Trade Rumor, "but my mom is more informed. She reads everything. She's on the Internet and on the phone a lot. She even has this one website where anything that pops up with my name on it goes straight to her email. I don't know what it is. And she doesn't even know how she put it on there. But anything that has my name on it, she'll get it. She'll even get this [story]."
Whoa. Talk about pressure. If it's the Daily Rumble's job to keep Heath Bell's mother up-to-date on where her son is about to get traded, we'd better make this good. So here goes:
The buzz around the Padres this past weekend was that their closer is most likely to wind up getting dealt to the Rangers or Phillies, because they have the prospect pool that best fits the Padres' hefty asking price.
The Cardinals, Angels, Braves and Reds have also been in on Edwina Bell's kid -- and on San Diego's primary setup man, Mike Adams. But it's possible, says Padres manager Bud Black, that his most dominant bullpen arms could still wind up with none of the above, despite the widespread assumption to the contrary.
"Don't be so sure," Black says. "[The Padres' baseball people] have players on other teams that they covet.
But if it's not the right players coming back, we're just not going to get rid of these guys."
A big reason for that, the manager says, is that the Padres know Heath Bell would love to re-sign this winter as a free agent if they can make the dollars work.
"Every year," Black says, "you've got free agents where you know they're not going back to that club. But that's not the case here."
Now that we've got all that out of the way, though, it would be a shock to most people in baseball if Bell doesn't get traded this week. He's too good a fit for all the bullpen shoppers. The Padres are officially in sell mode. And interest is heavy.
So as the Padres headed out on their current road trip, Heath Bell did what any savvy Human Trade Rumor would do at a time like this:
He couldn't be sure if he was packing for a week on the road -- or 2½ months on the road. He stuffed everything he could in one extra-large suitcase for the trip. And that's not all.
"I've got another bag packed at home, just in case," he says. "And I told my wife if I get traded before I get back, she can just mail it to me."
We don't know exactly how many stamps Nicole Bell would have to slap on that suitcase. But based on all the buzz around her husband, she'd better get her favorite postal representative on the phone, because it's possible he's heard his name mentioned more in the last couple of weeks than in the rest of his career combined.
"I've certainly heard it here in Philly," he says. "And at the All-Star Game, it was unbelievable. I'm not going to name names of teams, but it seemed like everybody I talked to would say, 'Dude, we really need you.' Or, 'We really need you at the back of our bullpen.' Or, 'If you were a part of our bullpen, we'd go to the World Series.' And I'd just say, 'Tell your GM to talk to my GM.'"
Since Heath Bell isn't one of those big shots with a giant ego or an ironclad no-trade clause, he can't do much to influence where those GMs conspire to send him. If if it were up to him, he'd love to stay in the National League, and he'd love to close games in a pennant race. But it isn't up to him.
"I look at it this way," he says. "If I get traded, I'll be going to a team that's in a playoff race, and that was so much fun last year [when the Padres were in contention], I think it's just going to be fun, to try to help that team win. So whatever the manager wants me to do, I'll do.
"If he wants me to come in there in the seventh, eighth, ninth, I'll do it. If he wants me to play center field, I'll do that. I'm sure they've seen me shag [fly balls]. They just haven't seen me hit yet. I think if I can just get in there, swing the bat a couple of times and get a knock or two, that might work, too."
Well, hard as we've worked the phones, we haven't heard any teams say they'd rather have Bell roaming center field next week than, say, B.J. Upton. But we've heard a bunch of teams say they'd love to have him roaming around their bullpen late in a tight game.
So for the next six days, the Padres' Human Trade Rumor will keep his ears open, his bags packed and his mother on speed dial.
"Hey, you never know," says Heath Bell. "You never know where I might go. Or I might win the lottery."
Carlos Beltran: The Mets' right fielder spoke on Sunday with ESPN New York's Adam Rubin, and Beltran went further than he ever had before in making it clear he prefers to stay in the National League. Beltran is still saying publicly he would go to Texas or Boston, the two AL teams most connected with him. But privately, according to one source, Beltran is telling friends that he has told the Mets he would only approve a deal to the seven primary National League contenders.
If that's true, it's bad news for Texas, because the Rangers have stepped up their pursuit of Beltran in recent days. But an executive of one club in this derby says he wouldn't be surprised if some team we haven't talked about much, like the Reds or Brewers, makes a late run. And no matter who emerges in the next few days, sources say the Mets are keeping the price tag as high as ever, because they feel the stakes are so high that someone will meet that price for the best bat on the market.
The Rays: An official of one team who spoke with the Rays over the weekend says he was told they're not trading James Shields, but they won't make up their mind about whether to deal players like Johnny Damon or Kyle Farnsworth until later this week. B.J. Upton is, theoretically, in the same boat. But if the Nationals, Giants, Indians or a team that loses out on Beltran steps up and meets Tampa Bay's price, the Rays could trade Upton even if they make up ground in the wild-card or AL East race, according to one source.
One surprising development that surfaced over the weekend is that other scouts report the Rays and Blue Jays have been scouting each other's systems in recent days. One of those scouts speculates: "This could be a way for them to make sure he doesn't get to Boston or New York. If they do a three-way with Toronto, they could get bullpen pieces and possibly a catcher. And then the Blue Jays could spin B.J. to a team in the National League."
The Giants: Giants GM Brian Sabean told reporters in San Francisco on Sunday that the Giants have three prospects they won't trade in any deal. One club reports those players are pitchers Zack Wheeler and Heath Hembree and center fielder Gary Brown, along with just-recalled first baseman Brandon Belt.
The Phillies: Teams that have spoken with the Phillies report they would love to do something big for an outfield bat or back-of-the-bullpen arm. But the Phillies continue to tell other clubs they don't want to trade players off their big-league team like Domonic Brown or Vance Worley, and they don't want to add more than about a million bucks in payroll so they can avoid paying luxury tax. So they're steering teams to their prospect-laden Class A team in Clearwater, in the hope that will be enough to get them one of the names on their shopping list.
There are indications they've cooled their pursuit of Beltran, and have talked more actively with Houston about Hunter Pence. But one source indicated they believe that's a long shot. So the Phillies have turned their attention to a variety of bullpen options, headed by Heath Bell. One new name on that bullpen shopping list: Brandon League, of the imploding Mariners.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is now available in a new paperback edition, in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
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