Heath Bell Staying With Padres Despite Adrian Gonzalez Trade, GM Says
"Heath is going to be our closer in 2011," Padres GM Jed Hoyer said Monday, a day after completing a deal to send franchise icon Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox.
The easy assumption after the Gonzalez deal is that the Padres are in full selling mode and would also trade their closer, who, like Gonzalez, is signed only through 2011. Although Hoyer said he's not expecting to sign Bell to an extension "in the near future," he isn't putting him on the trading block either.
"It's hard to say anything definitively, but it's exceptionally likely" that Bell would remain with the Padres into the season.
Of course, the Padres still could trade Bell during the season. There is always a demand for closers at the deadline.
As for the Gonzalez deal, Hoyer said he was worried that the market would have dried up if he'd waited until July to trade him. Hoyer mentioned Gonzalez's shoulder injury, which could have caused him to have a down season, and also that there are other first basemen -- most notably Prince Fielder -- who could be moved.
The market for Gonzalez was shrinking even during the winter. Hoyer said two teams besides the Red Sox were heavily involved in the bidding, reportedly the Cubs and White Sox. The White Sox presumably dropped out when they signed Adam Dunn.
That's why Hoyer didn't want to wait any longer on Gonzlaez.
"Once we knew it was one more season (for Gonzalez), we felt the right move was to act somewhat preemptively to get the best package of young players back," Hoyer said.
Hoyer also wasn't persuaded by the Padres' 90-win season in 2010 to hang on to Gonzalez for another playoff run, even if they knew they'd lose him after that.
"I think the word most often ascribed to our season last year was improbable," Hoyer said. "What I want to do every year going forward is build a team that has a probable chance every year of being good. The way to do that, in a lower payroll environment, is to have a wave of young players coming up through the system. Our farm system has a lot of very good talent at the lower levels, but at the upper levels we're fairly thin. We need to create a wave of young talent coming through, so we can be a probable favorite to go to the postseason rather than making improbable runs at it."
Hoyer said the Padres "aren't giving up on 2011," and his immediate goal is to sign a free agent first baseman to replace Gonzalez. Derrek Lee, Russell Branyan, Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche are among the free agent first basemen who might fit for the Padres.
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