D’Backs, A’s and Marlins pull off three-way deal: Heath Bell to Arizona, Chris Young to Oakland

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Here’s doozy of a trade to break up an otherwise quiet day around major league baseball.

Per announcements from the clubs involved, the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Marlins have pulled off a three-way trade which will send Heath Bell to Arizona and Chris Young to Oakland.

Here are the specifics as we have them right now:

The Diamondbacks dealt outfielder Chris Young and cash considerations to the Athletics for infielder Cliff Pennington and prospect infielder Yordy Cabrera. The Diamondbacks then sent Cabrera to the Marlins in exchange for reliever Heath Bell to complete the three-team deal.

Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the Diamondbacks will cover $13 million of the $21 million remaining on Bell’s contract. It’s clear that something had to be done with the disgruntled reliever after his disastrous first season in Miami, where he clashed with manager Ozzie Guillen and even some teammates. With that in mind, the Marlins have to be thrilled that they were able to not only get rid of Bell, but somehow convince the Diamondbacks to cover the majority of his remaining salary.

We knew the Diamondbacks would likely deal at least one of their outfielders this winter, but it’s hard to believe Kevin Towers couldn’t do better than this as a return for Young, especially considering the money they will now owe to a declining reliever. And in a poor environment for a bounceback, to boot. Towers must really like Pennington, but it’s hard to understand the rush. The Diamondbacks picked up the option on J.J. Putz’s contract for 2013 this morning, so Bell will be asked to pitch in a set-up role with his new club.

This looks like an excellent deal for the Athletics, even though Young is a bit of a curious fit with Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick set in the corner outfield spots and Coco Crisp under contract for $7 million for next season. Still, hard to pass up a deal for a talented center fielder at this price. They likely got a bit of a discount because of Young’s shoulder injury from this season.

Young, 29, is owed $8.5 million in 2013 while his contract includes an $11 million club option for 2014 or a $1.5 million buyout. Per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks are sending $500,000 to Oakland as part of the deal.

Given the surplus of outfield talent with the A’s, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see some more wheeling and dealing from Billy Beane soon, possibly with a deal involving Crisp or Seth Smith. It’s also worth noting that by dealing Pennington to the Diamondbacks, the A’s are more likely to exercise their portion of the $10 million player option Stephen Drew’s contract for next season.

Cabrera was ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the Athletics’ organization by Baseball America coming into this season, but his numbers have been pretty underwhelming as a pro. The 22-year-old has a .230/.297/.351 batting line and a .648 OPS over three seasons and has yet to play above High-A. This was mostly about the Marlins getting out from under Bell’s contract. And they certainly accomplished that goal.

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a good 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.