Another Hypothetical Heath Bell Deal

The Miami Marlins grand experiment hasn’t worked this year, leading to the trades of Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Randy Choate before the non-waiver trade deadline. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t have had to trade those players, because they would still be fighting for a playoff spot at this point in the season. But it hasn’t been a perfect world for the Marlins, and one of the major imperfections is the performance of high-priced reliever Heath Bell.

Signed to a lucrative three-year deal this offseason, Bell was supposed to help transform the Marlins into legitimate championship contenders. He has, however, been quite bad, losing the confidence of his manager and the closer role itself, and there haven’t been any signs of him turning things around.

The Marlins have already unloaded a number of valuable assets, but have had trouble finding a suitor for Bell. That’s what tends to happen with relievers who make a lot of money despite being shells of their former selves. Bell was already linked to the Red Sox in a rumor that had him and Hanley heading to Boston in exchange for Carl Crawford. The deal never materialized, but it was a very interesting thought experiment, as the salaries getting swapped were similar and the move represented a change-of-scenery challenge for those involved.

According to a recent Ken Rosenthal report, the Marlins were engaged in another change-of-scenery challenge trade involving Bell this week. This time, they spoke to the Mets about trading Bell and catcher John Buck for Jason Bay. No formal deal was proposed and the idea didn’t truly gain traction, but it again represented an interesting idea. Considering that no other team is going to relieve the Marlins of Bell’s salary, or the Mets of Bay’s, this is a deal worth revisiting before the waiver deadline.

The mechanics of the deal make sense for both sides. Bell is owed approximately $2 million this season, and $9 million in each of the next two seasons. He has a $9 million option in 2015 contingent upon finishing 55 games the year before, or 100 games over 2013-14. Buck will also make around $2 million over the rest of the season, and makes $6 million next year before hitting free agency. Bay has around $5.4 million remaining on his 2012 contract, and is set to make $16 million next year. He has a $17 million club option ($3 million buyout) that is guaranteed if he tallies 600 PAs in 2013 or 500 PAs in both 2012-13. But forget the options, because they won’t trigger and aren’t getting exercised.

Bay has only logged 137 PAs this season, and it’s unlikely that Bell will finish all of those games if he continues to pitch this poorly. It’s essentially a Catch-22 for both players: if they were playing well, they would rack up the PAs and GFs, making it far more likely that the options trigger. However, if they were performing well to that extent, neither team would look to make this type of swap. The whole notion of a change-of-scenery deal is that the players switching teams might need a fresh start to get their respective grooves back.

In terms of money changing hands, if the deal went down today, the Marlins would trade away $4 million in 2012 salary and bring back $5.4 million. Next season, the Marlins would have traded away $15 million and acquired $16 million. In 2014, the Mets would pay Bell’s $9 million salary while Bay would be removed from the Marlins books save for the $3 million buyout.

Overall, the Marlins save more money, as the Mets would remain on the hook for Bell’s 2014 salary after Bay’s and Buck’s contracts expire. However, in removing Bay in this hypothetical deal, and treating the money as a sunk cost, the Mets would potentially have a decent reliever in Bell and a backup catcher with power in Buck, if everything works out. Plus, they would remove Bay from the lineup permanently, which enables them to use an actual productive player in left field moving forward.

Since the money is virtually the same over 2012-13, it seemingly makes plenty of sense for the Mets to pursue such a move. Buck has struggled this season but has been a league average player over the previous two seasons. And, for all we know, Bell is a headcase who could view a trade as the fresh start he needed to right the ship. Both he and Buck have more potential to improve the Mets than does Bay.

From the Marlins point of view, this move would be about shedding long-term payroll and creating the perception of starting over, as they save $4-5 million in 2014. However, Bay has been so bad and inconsistent in both health and performance over the last three seasons that it’s unlikely he would do much of anything. In pursuing this move, the Marlins would be clearly valuing the long-term payroll relief over potential returned production.

Both teams are going to pay unproductive players similar amounts of money over the next couple of seasons. There are potential benefits for both sides here, with the Mets bringing in relatively higher upside players while the Marlins garner some salary relief. As all three players are likely to pass through waivers, don’t be surprised if this picks up steam over the next few weeks.



Print This Post



Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
theperfectgame
Member
3 years 11 months ago

I think you may be miscalculating Bay’s remaining 2012 salary & forgetting about his 2014 buyout.

Here’s what I get. Bay is owed $16M in 2012, $16M in 2013 & has a $17M option with a $3M buyout in 2014. Bell is owed $6M in 2012, $9M in 2013 & $9M in 2014, with a 2015 option that apparently has no buyout. Buck is owed $6M in 2012 & $6M in 2013. If you assume the options don’t vest/aren’t picked up and that 1/3 of the 2012 salaries remain, you’re at $2M apiece for Bell & Buck and $5.3M for Bay. Salary-wise overall, if you assume a straight up trade, the Mets would give up $5.3M in 2012, $16M in 2013 & $3M in 2014 ($24.3M in total) for $4M in 2012, $15M in 2013 & $9M in 2014 ($28M in total).

apagano
Guest
apagano
3 years 11 months ago

Heath Bell’s deal also contained a $3M signing bonus that was to be “deferred without interest,” but I’m not sure when that is scheduled to be paid.

Derek
Guest
Derek
3 years 11 months ago

Just a small note, the Marlins would presumably still be on the hook for Bay’s 2014 buyout (3 million) as well.

caseyB
Guest
caseyB
3 years 11 months ago

Garbage swap. Why bother? For either side. Bell has already failed in NY before he made it in San Diego. Buck has a career .705 OPS. He might be a decent righty platoon catcher with Thole, but the potential benefits don’t seem large enough to take on the headaches of Heath Bell. And Bay appears to have completely lost the ability to be an adequate major league hitter. If I were the Marlins I wouldn’t want him either.

For the Mets, the best option is to probably just release Bay, unless they can find another change-of-scenery swap that seems to have more promise than this one.

Max Grission
Guest
Max Grission
3 years 11 months ago

You are slightly incorrect “Bell has already failed in NY before he made it in San Diego.”

For some reason Willie Randolph did not like Bell and refused to use him in high leverage situations. The organisation seemed to follow Randolph’s lead and Bell did not really have a fair shot.

Randolph is gone and a manager who the players like and listen to is in his seat.

As a Met fan I would really welcome this trade. Bay has collapsed completely and is worthless to us now. Bell will come to an organization desperately in need of quality RPing and get his shot to recover.

Therefore, I think Bell is worth the shot for the Mets.

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 11 months ago

The Marlins really do look like they’re new at this giving out large contracts thing. Have they made even one good multiyear contract in the past decade?

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 11 months ago

Forgot about Josh Johnson. That one worked out pretty well. Am I missing any others?

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 11 months ago

The Marlins’ offseason shopping spree served its function, i.e., to sucker Miami area folks into believing that Jeffrey Loria was making a good faith effort to putting a winning product on the field and that the public investment in the new stadium was a good investment. Heath Bell’s contract was a part of that effort. So, from that perspective, this was a good multiyear contract.

Spike
Guest
Spike
3 years 11 months ago

as a Met fan I want no part of Heath Bell for 2 seasons. no thank you. Jason Bay will play out this year in a platoon role most likely and if he shows nothing again in April, he’ll get his walking papers at that time with less than 1 contract year for the Mets to eat. eos. The Mets do not want to have more years of unproductive players to wait out.

the only scenarios that are feasible wet Bay are again taking a worse contract back since there is no baseball reason anyone would want Bay right now. Maybin ? he’s owed about $25M after 2012 season and has been awful but at least he’s still young and can play CF… that would save the Pads $6M? maybe add Hundley’s 2 more yrs at $7M..? Is $13M saving enough for Pads to make that swap?

Either way, I think Mets just let eat remaining year after giving Bay one last chance next Spring. I doubt they have any interest in taking back worse contracts.

Zach
Guest
Zach
3 years 11 months ago

Are you serious? I know a 1-2 WAR season wasn’t what the Padres were looking for from Maybin, but even if he produces at this level for his entire contract, he’ll STILL be surplus value. You think that’s a bad contract?

Spike
Guest
Spike
3 years 11 months ago

point remains. the only way out of Bay situation is to swap for a bigger obligation.

...
Guest
...
3 years 11 months ago

why in the world would the mets want to pay 4+million more for useless players, including people who will be tying up money and roster spots long term?

Derek
Guest
Derek
3 years 11 months ago

I think the idea is that Bay is essentially a sunk cost that the Mets otherwise will inevitably have to release and that Bell/Buck is probably worth more then the 4-5 million difference in salaries.

SKob
Guest
3 years 11 months ago

As a Red Sox fan who thinks Bay could still hit in Fenway, I think a Sox – Mets change of scenery deal makes more sense. Bay and Santana for Crawford and Beckett. Crawford certainly has more use than Bay and would be better served in the NL. Santana is owed a ton even though he’s actually been useful this year. Beckett has sucked, but just last year showed he can still put up good numbers and quality starts. Maybe he wouldn’t suck if he wasn’t in the hellhole we’ve created here in Boston. Any Mets fans want to do this too or am I just a Sox fan making up fantasy trades?

Spike
Guest
Spike
3 years 11 months ago

how much is Crawford owed?!? yeah, you’re fantasizing.

Theo owes the Sox a huge favor and should pay it off by taking Crawford for Soriano.

Fiery Furnaces
Guest
Fiery Furnaces
3 years 11 months ago

As a Cubs fan I would give you that in a half second. Then immediately send Crawford in for that TJ and expect him back sometime in May.

Jerry
Guest
Jerry
3 years 11 months ago

I love the deal for the mets, its painful to see bay out there as a mets fan, ppl forget bell is only one year removed from an all-star season, and buck has pop something thole does not. bay hasn’t done anything the 2 prev seasons where bell has a low 2.00 ERA and 90 saves, love it especially since the mets closer when healthy is Frank Francisco…yeah I’ll take bell

wpDiscuz