According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Blue Jays are now favorites to land closer Heath Bell, formerly of the San Diego Padres. With over three years of closer experience with the Padres, Bell is one of the remaining lights-out closers still available in free agency.
In three years of closing games with the Padres, Bell has saved 134 games while sporting an ERA lower than 2.40 in just over 200 IP with the club.
Toronto, who is desperately seeking a closer, is likely to lose both Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to free agency this year, so adding Bell will help bolster a pretty anemic bullpen.
Late last night, Jim Bowden of the MLB Network reported that Bell was close to signing with an unnamed team, however nothing developed from that rumor. It was widely speculated that the "unknown" team was in fact the Blue Jays.
With the Jays already interested in Bell, looking at relief pitcher Greg Holland of the Royals and discussing trades for Andrew Bailey of the Oakland Athletics, nothing has yet to happen from these rumors. Winter meetings are approaching though and movement should really start to take place.
In other news, with an injection of funds into the Jays payroll, baseball experts are discussing the odds that Toronto can land first baseman Prince Fielder.
Jon Paul Morosi believes the team could make a lucrative offer to the first baseman. With supposedly up to $50 million dollars to spend to get to the $120 million dollar payroll limit Paul Beeston declared as their ceiling, the Jays could easily afford both Bell and Fielder, with about $20-25 million to spare.
But it shouldn’t be that surprising. Line up the factors—payroll flexibility, roster construction, competitive window, attendance impact—and there are few (if any) better fits for Fielder.
First, the money: Fielder, 27, will shatter one team’s notion of what is reasonable for a first baseman to earn. An owner will wince. A GM will avert his eyes. This will be a payroll-buster. And yet the Jays’ bottom line is more pliable than most. Their Opening Day payroll this year was around $70 million, but club president Paul Beeston has said that it could climb to $120 million.
For those scoring at home, that’s a $50 million bump. So, yes, the Blue Jays absolutely can afford Prince Fielder.
If the Jays were to make a move for Fielder, expect Adam Lind to be traded to a team in need of a first baseman. The Jays would likely be asking for a starting pitcher.
With the winter meetings just around the corner, the rumor mill will once again be running wild as the rumors begin to fly. For Jays fans, we all hope the rumors revolve around our beloved Jays.
UPDATE: Marlins agree to three-deal with closer Heath Bell according to TSN.ca, thus ending the chances the Jays get him via free agency.