MLB Free Agents 2012: Why Los Angeles Angels Need to Target Heath Bell

Kyle RobertsContributor IIINovember 1, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: Why Los Angeles Angels Need to Target Heath Bell

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    As the 2012 MLB offseason begins, new GM Jerry Dipito and the Los Angeles Angels must find a way to improve on 2011's 86-76 record.

    If the Angels are unable to chase huge names such as Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, San Diego Padres' closer Heath Bell is a more affordable free agent option.

    Here is why signing Bell is an attractive proposition for the Halos.

Albert Pujols and Other Stars Are Too Expensive

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    The Angels' current roster will account for around $120 million in payroll. Owner Arte Moreno expects 2012's payroll to be between $130 and $140 million. With less than $20 million to work with, Jerry Dipito most likely won't be allowed to pursue the cream of 2012's free agent crop.

    This would preclude them from offering bids to first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder and possibly preclude them from shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitcher C.J Wilson, as well.

    Bell, however, would be relatively cheap and fill a huge need in the bullpen.

Free Agent Reliever Market Is Weak

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    The other two marquee closers on the market are the Boston Red Sox' Jonathan Papelbon and the Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Madson. Both figure to command at least $10 million a year, perhaps more in Papelbon's case.

    But compare their resumes to Bell, who will be considerably less. In the last two years, Papelbon and Madson have accrued WARs (Win Above Replacement) of 2.4 and 3.6, respectively. Bell trumps them both with a combined WAR of 4.1

    Clearly he is the best value.

Jordan Walden Isn't Ready to Be Closer

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    23-year-old Jordan Walden performed admirably in his first full season in the bigs, compiling a 2.98 ERA. However, he failed to shut down the ninth inning, blowing a league-leading 10 saves.

    At age 34, Bell would only be signed for a couple years. He could bridge the gap at closer as Walden matures.

    Meanwhile, with a 100 MPH fastball, Walden could be a dominant setup man in the eighth inning.

Heath Bell Is No Fernando Rodney

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    Angel fans were burned two offseason ago, as Fernando Rodney was signed as the club's next closer. Rodney flamed out, making many skeptical of the Halos making a similar move this winter.

    But Bell is a far superior closer. Compare their last three seasons before free agency. Rodney compiled a 4.48 ERA and 0.8 WAR. Bell compiled a 2.36 ERA and 6.2 WAR.

    Obviously, there is no comparison. Unlike Rodney, Bell would not be a bust if he dons an Angels uniform.