|Bell back in the good old days in San Diego.|
Heath Bell was once "top of the world, Ma" (That's Cagney, not Titanic), but after he signed a free agent deal with the Florida Marlins, the one time NL saves leader came crashing back to Earth. Bell will be with his fourth team in four years this coming Spring Training after the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him Tuesday from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a three team deal.
In addition to Bell, the Rays will also get catcher Ryan Hanigan and cash from the Reds. Cincinnati will receive left-hander David Holmberg from Arizona, while the Dbacks get right-hander Justin Choate from the Rays and a player to be named later.
Bell saved more than 40 games for three straight seasons (2009-2011) while a member of the San Diego Padres. The 36-year old signed a three-year, $27MM deal with the Marlins following the 2011 season, but was part of the mass purge orchestrated by owner/con-man Jeffrey Loria. Bell landed in Arizona in October, 2012 as part of a three team deal that included Oakland.
His one season in Miami was a disaster with a 5+ ERA and 8 blown saves in 27 chances. He eventually lost the closer role to Steve Cishek. Bell started off well in AZ with 13 saves in 15 opportunities, but then blew five of his next seven chances and lost the full-time job.
The Rays are hoping Bell can turn things around just as Fernando Rodney did after he signed with the Rays as a free agent prior to the 2012 season. Once a mediocre set up man and poor closer, Rodney was an All-Star and finished 5th in the 2012 AL Cy Young voting after he saved 48 of 50 games and limited the opposition to a 1.08 ERA. Rodney blew eight of 45 chances in 2013, but is expected to sign a multi-year deal elsewhere. In the meantime, Bell will be among those vying for the vacant closer's role.
Holmberg is a 22-year old that was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft. He made his Major League debut on August 27 in a start against the San Diego Padres and left with no decision after he allowed three earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. The lefty isn't overpowering and relies on a good curveball. Despite being a starter in the minor leagues, he's likely ticketed to become a lefty specialist if he earns his way on to a Major League roster.
Choate signed a free agent deal with the Rays after being undrafted out of Texarkana (TX) College, which won the JUCO title in 2010. Choate pitched with some success for the Hudson Valley Renegades of the NY-Penn League last season. In 40.2 innings thrown, he struck out 35, walked 9, and pitched to a 2.88 ERA.