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Heath Bell says signing long-term deal with Padres “would be my dream”

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Once the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox with one season remaining on his contract the assumption has been that fellow impending free agent Heath Bell isn’t long for San Diego either, but yesterday the closer told Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune that signing a long-term extension “would be my dream.”

Whether or not the Padres have room in their budget for a $10 million-per-season closer or are even interested in making a multi-year commitment to a 33-year-old reliever is unclear, but Bell left no doubt that he wants to remain in San Diego:

This next contract is going to be very important to my family. I’m not 27 or 28 when I become eligible for free agency like Adrian. I have to think about this contract. But I also want to stay in San Diego. My family loves it here. I love it here. I’d love to get something done with the Padres that benefits everyone. Right now, I honestly don’t know what I am asking or what the Padres are offering. I don’t know the numbers, but I know I want to stay with the Padres.

Bell is set to make around $7 million this season via the arbitration process, and Center speculates that an extension “would easily top $20 million” for three years. General manager Jed Hoyer indicated that he’s had some discussions with Bell’s agent, but the talks don’t sound very far along.

Since joining the Padres in 2007 Bell has a 2.54 ERA and 338 strikeouts in 311 innings, including 89 saves in two seasons since replacing Trevor Hoffman as closer. If the Padres fall out of contention, expect Bell to be among the most sought after players at the trading deadline.