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.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.