According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the San Francisco Giants did as expected and claimed San Diego Padres’ closer Heath Bell off of waivers today. The Giants will now have until 1:00 PM EDT on Friday to work out an agreement.
There are about a dozen variables at play here for both sides, but at face value, the most important to San Francisco is the questionable health of its bullpen with Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo both on the Disabled List with sore right elbows. For the Padres, their primary concern is whether or not Bell will make good on his promise to accept arbitration when they offer it to him at season’s end.
Bell, who hasn’t put up the dominant numbers this season that he has in the past, has already said that if he’s offered it, he will go to arbitration with the Padres, rather than test the free agent market. This means that the Padres can’t quite ask the standard bearing question for trading impending free agents: Will the return be better than the compensation for him signing elsewhere?
Digging deeper, you have to come to the assumption that the Giants, after already trading Zack Wheeler to acquire Carlos Beltran, would be unwilling to move what would be the equivalent of a first round draft pick and a supplemental pick to the Padres for a player who, even if he performs his absolute best, won’t do anything to address the team’s major malfunction: offense.
Not helping matters much is that Bell isn’t exactly setting the world on fire this season, putting up the worst strikeout rate and xFIP of his career. The Giants would do exceedingly better to rely on Guillermo Mota and Ramon Ramirez as right handed options out of the bullpen rather than give up anything of worth for 15 innings at most from Bell.
But then again, this is Brian Sabean that we’re talking about, so who knows?
As much as we might mock Sabean’s evaluation process ahead of signing veterans to regrettable contracts though, we might do well to remember that it was the Giants who claimed outfielder Cody Ross around this time last season as a means of blocking the Padres from acquiring him from the Florida Marlins. That ended up working out alright.
The unlikelihood of a deal being struck between San Diego and San Francisco leads to me believe that Sabean might have had interest in blocking the Arizona Diamondbacks, who lead the NL West by two games, or another playoff bound team from acquiring a name reliever ahead of the final month of the season.
In that sense, mission accomplished.
I just wonder if it was a matter of blocking the team acquiring Bell or an attempt to keep the Padres in their place. You could probably defend the motivation behind either strategy.