Saturday, May 28, 2011

Texas Rangers: For Whom the Heath Bell Tolls

Josh Hamilton has returned and so has Nelson Cruz, but there are still questions surrounding the Texas Rangers and most of them center around the bullpen.

Lately, the one name who has been talked about is San Diego Padres' closer Heath Bell. You might remember me talking about this exact scenario and the players who the Padres might be interested in. Apparently that interest has led the Rangers to call San Diego and inquire about Bell's availability.

According to CBS Sports' Scott Miller, the Rangers are "simply checking their options" as they have also talked to the Pittsburgh Pirates about their closer, Joel Hanrahan. While Bell says he would love to stay in San Diego he also realizes that baseball is a business.

Heath Bell Pitcher Heath Bell #21 of the San Diego Padres throws in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 15, 2011 in Houston, Texas.
Bob Levey/Getty Images

"I'll give it everything I have for the Padres until the team says otherwise," Bell told the media. "Until Jed [Hoyer, Padres general manager] tells me I'm no longer a San Diego Padre."

The sources I spoke to in early May through out a few possible names the Padres could ask for. One of which seems to intrigue at least a few Padre fans.

Bell signed a one-year $7.5 million contract with the Padres before the beginning of the 2011 season in order to avoid arbitration. To some this might look like another "Cliff Lee trade" when the Rangers sent another infield prospect, Justin Smoak, to the Mariners in return for the ace left-hander.

Lee skipped town as a free agent after the season ended, the same might be said for Heath Bell as he will become a free agent after this season concludes. Dealing away another infield prospect, this time shortstop Jurickson Profar, might come back to bite the team again if Bell heads to greener pastures.

At this point, Profar is blocked by the likes of current shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler not to mentioned long time Ranger, Michael Young. However, Kinsler is a free agent after the 2013 season and one has to wonder if he will be the team's next Michael Young or if the Rangers will not be willing to give him a long term deal.

Whatever the case may be the Rangers need to solidify their bullpen if they are going to stay in front in the American League's Western Division and make another deep run in the playoffs.

We are just over two months away from the trade deadline but the longer Texas waits to make a deal, the more teams will become involved for Bell. Though you might say the longer they wait there might be more relief pitchers who become available who won't require big time money as free agents.

The Rangers, as of May 28th, are tied with the Los Angeles Angels for first place in the AL West and have tread water to this point. As for the Padres, they currently sit 10 games below .500 and eight games back of NL West leading San Francisco Giants.

While eight games is not completely out of the race, the way this team is built, I don't see them making a move at the deadline to get themselves back into the race. They just don't have the pieces available to chase down the Giants or the Arizona Diamondbacks for that matter.

Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels is taking a wait and see approach to his ballclub and will wait for the perfect deal before he pulls the trigger.

If I'm Daniels, I would keep my radar squarely fixed on Heath Bell and be ready to pull the trigger when San Diego finally waves the white flag of surrender.

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