For three years running, San Diego closer Heath Bell has been the subject of trade discussions and rumors and the trade deadline.
Yet, Bell still remains a Padre despite this season being the time when everyone was positively sure he was on the move, most notably to either Texas or St. Louis.
The deadline is nearly a week in the past but that doesn't officially mean the flame-throwing reliever is necessarily staying the rest of the season in San Diego, but that could only come to fruition if the Padres choose to place him on waivers, a move which seems unlikely given the team's reluctance to accept trade offers in exchange.
Here are the most notable reasons why Padre fans can expect to see Bell in a Friars uniform not just for the remainder of this season, but into the future.
Obvious? Yes. However, regardless of one's personal opinion about whether or not the Padres should have dealt away Bell in a trade, the fact still remains that he is arguably the best ninth inning pitcher in baseball.
Bell is tied for second in MLB in saves at 31, and that number is low due, in part, to the Padres struggles on the field and not finding themselves in save positions as often as they would like.
When faced with a save opportunity, Bell and the Padres are 31 for 33 this season and that kind of stability can be huge for a young team looking for positives.
The Friars possibly could have sent Bell in any number of directions at the deadline and left their closing duties to set up man Mike Adams, who had a phenomenal career in San Diego, but the club instead decided to trade Adams to his home state of Texas for two top pitching prospects and hold onto Bell.
While several contending teams with questions in their bullpen inquired about Bell possibly more than any other player on the trading block, San Diego decided it was best to keep him as a Padre and work towards the future knowing that a ninth inning lead almost inevitably equals a win.
Padres owner Jeff Moorad came to San Diego in 2009 with a vision to gradually bring the team out of its traditionally small-market shadow.
Moorad has promised an increase in payroll and keeping Bell solidifies the notion that the Padres aren't slashing salary at any cost.
The team notably traded Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in December, but the trade was largely due to the belief that no matter where the team was heading financially, the salary raise Gonzalez would be demanding on a yearly basis would not fit into the Padres' budget.
Moorad and the front office did attempt to bring in some name recognition in the off-season with the signings of Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, and the one-year contract renewal of recently-traded Ryan Ludwick, but San Diego still began the year 27th out of 30 MLB clubs in payroll, this coming after beginning the 2010 season 29th out of 30.
Now with Bell due to hit the free-agent market, and the Padres clearly believing he will be re-signing with the club, the payroll will get a boost from its most notable player.
From the eyes of a Padres fan, Bell's desire to remain with the club despite its struggles can be seen as a refreshing change from the norm.
Aside from the simple luxury that is living in San Diego, Bell has other reasons for wanting to stay a Padre.
We all see the best players wanting to jump ship for the most money and the strongest contender. Not that they could be blamed, necessarily, but the closer's outspoken wish to stay in San Diego is a promising show of faith to say the least.
Although his eighth inning set up man Mike Adams is gone to the Rangers, the Padres bullpen is still expected to remain among the best in the league and Bell knows that. He is the anchor and the rock on which the Padres small-ball approach of defense and pitching relies upon and he has made it clear that he would like it to remain that way for years to come.
The Padres front office recognizes that a situation like the one Bell presents is not one to be taken lightly, so expect him to get his wish and stay a Padre.
In his first season as a Padre, outfielder Cameron Maybin has established himself as one of the core pieces in the Padres future
One bright spot about a team that struggles is that they can often discover who will be a part of that team's future.
One sore spot to that same situation is that many times, a team's key player will be traded to a contending team.
With Bell staying put at the deadline the Padres have made it clear that, although he is nearly 34, he can still remain the anchor in the bullpen while the team grows around him.
San Diego has a promising young nucleus of players that have proven themselves this season, such as Cameron Maybin (pictured), Jesus Guzman, and pitcher Tim Stauffer, along with the development of former top-prospect Chase Headley.
The Padres will never be a team that leads the league in runs scored, but with a ninth inning threat like Bell, the young players will know that if they get a lead, they're likely coming out on top.
When Bell is faced with the discussion regarding whether he will stay in San Diego, it's not hard to read between the lines with his responses.
He clearly enjoys his situation with the Padres, and as a Southern California native; born in nearby Oceanside and attending high school and college in neighboring Orange County, it's hard for him not to.
Unlike Gonzalez, a fellow San Diego-area native, Bell is willing to let the pieces fall into place around him rather than hope for a future salary that the Padres can't afford, and likely being traded in the process.
Padres fans immediately put all their faith in Gonzalez, both as the team's star and as a local product, and they are doing the same now in the pitcher they have grown so accustomed to seeing fly out of the left-center field bullpen at Petco Park when the Padres hold a precious ninth-inning lead.
Despite the contrary with Gonzalez, local products can sometimes make for an easier commitment for the future, despite how the team may be playing at the time, and Bell seems to fit that description.
It's hard for fans of a struggling team to keep faith and stay interested in the product on the field.
Padres fans took enough of a collective hit when Gonzalez was traded, as he was the humble, local superstar who became too rich for the team's blood, and Bell seemed to be next in line to follow his footsteps.
Keeping Bell, however, will help the fans to identify with one of the most casual and fun-loving players in the game, and remind them that San Diego isn't willing to give up their only star for the sake of more prospects.
Some debate whether or not that was the right move for the Padres moving forward, but at the end of the day, the team is better with Bell lurking in the bullpen than without him.
In a town like San Diego, Bell is the perfect athlete to be the face of their franchise and the fans know it.
The Padres gained some notoriety last season for their bullpen's antics as much as their success during the team's surprising season.
Bell is the glue that keeps the team together and the free-spirited pitcher isn't afraid to keep things loose in the clubhouse.
On a team as young and maturing as the Padres, it's wise to keep a player like Bell to be a mentor not only to young pitchers, but young players learning the ins and outs of being a professional athlete on and off the field.
It's highly possible that trading Bell away would have put a dent into the team's chemistry and a potentially troubling battle for the closer position might have ensued.
For a team in the Padres' position, it benefits them to keep the anchor to their bullpen around and helps to take pressure away from the offense.
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