Once the dust settled at 4 p.m. ET yesterday, the natural assumption was that the Padres would let Heath Bell walk via free agency and take the two draft picks if they are unable to work out a team-friendly contract extension. Well, it may not work out that way.
Bell told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier today that he would accept arbitration if he is unable to come to an agreement with the Padres.
“If I don’t have a multi-year deal and they offer me arbitration, I will accept arbitration,” Bell said. “My wife (Nicole) and I talked about all the scenarios last night.
“There is no downside to me accepting arbitration and the family staying in San Diego for at least another year. My kids love it here. My family is happy here. And I’m in a position where I can make some decisions right now.
“The ball is in my court. I want to stay in San Diego. And I want to win here.”
Bell, who turns 34 in September, is making $7.5 million this season and would presumably fetch eight figures through the arbitration process. He told Center that he is looking for a three-year contract in the range of $27 million while the Padres are only willing to offer two years with an option for a third year.
While this sounds like a tricky scenario for a team that likely won’t be on the brink of contention any time soon, Padres owner Jeff Moorad told XX1090 in San Diego (via Dan Hayes of the North County Times) that they actually wouldn’t mind if Bell accepts arbitration.
“In some ways [it’s] even preferable from our point of view … We certainly don’t mind going to year-to-year, though we are willing to guarantee a couple of years with him.”
Bell has a 2.28 ERA, 30 saves in 32 chances and a 33/16 K/BB ratio over 43 1/3 innings this season. He projects to be a Type A free agent this winter.