Heath Bell and the Padres are talking contract extension

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Heath Bell has repeatedly made it very clear that he wants to stay in San Diego, saying that signing a long-term deal with the Padres “would be a dream” and then revealing that he’d “definitely take less” to get something done.

Throughout all that the Padres’ interest in actually committing to an expensive closer into his mid-30s was unclear, but now Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports that Bell’s “agents had a productive meeting last week with general manager Jed Hoyer about a contract extension.”

Bell told Bloom that he’s looking for a three-year deal, presumably for no less per season than the $7.5 million he’s earning now. Something in the $25-30 million range should get it done, but if not the Padres may look to trade the impending free agent if they fall out of contention by July 31.

Mariano Rivera is the highest-paid closer at $15 million, and Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Francisco Cordero are all earning more than $10 million this season. Since taking over for Trevor Hoffman two seasons ago Bell leads baseball with 89 saves and ranks seventh among all relievers with a 2.32 ERA, so he certainly deserves to be paid like an elite closer.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.