Baseball

Blue Jays interested in closer Heath Bell: report

According to FOXSports.com, the Toronto Blue Jays have inquired about closer Heath Bell, and his San Diego Padres teammate, set-up man Mike Adams.

Blue Jays fans soon could be talking about an incoming relief pitcher, not the number of relievers general manager Alex Anthopoulos could ship out before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

FOXSports.com reported Thursday the Blue Jays have inquired to the San Diego Padres about 33-year-old closer Heath Bell, as well as set-up man Mike Adams, 32.

Bell, a free agent after the season, reportedly is coveted by several teams, including the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

In 40 games this season entering Thursday, Bell had a 2-3 record, 2.52 earned-run average and 27 saves in 29 opportunities. He has also held opposing batters to a .224 average.

It's believed the Blue Jays, who are outside of the playoff picture in the American League East — sitting 11 games back of the first-place Red Sox entering play Thursday — could have a better chance at signing Bell by acquiring him now.

They could at least offer him salary arbitration and collect two high draft picks if he chooses to leave as a Type A free agent.

Anthopoulos could pick up Bell or Adams and flips him for another player or prospects, much the way he did earlier this season when catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli arrived in the Vernon Wells deal and quickly was sent to Texas for relief pitcher Frank Francisco.

Bell told the Union Tribune newspaper in San Diego that the odds of him being traded are "at 90 per cent."

Staying put?

However, Padres owner Jeff Moorad has told Adams he's staying put, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Last winter, the Jays watched relievers Scott Downs and closer Kevin Gregg leave as free agents after being offered arbitration, while Jason Frasor accepted arbitration and re-signed.

Toronto ranks next to last in save percentage in the AL.

The 31-year-old Francisco has yet to pan out in the closer's role in Toronto, sporting a 5.53 ERA in 32 games and converting 10 of 14 save chances, while opposing batters have hit .293 off him.

Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel also were signed in the off-season as potential closers and have struggled with consistency with Rauch closing out seven games to Dotel's one, the same number as Shawn Camp and Casey Janssen.

Rauch, Dotel and Frasor are likely Type B free agents, meaning the Blue Jays would be entitled to a supplementary round pick in next June's amateur draft. All three could be tough for Anthopoulos to move since their contracts include club options for next season.

At the end of the season, the Elias Sports Bureau takes all players over the 2010-11 period, divides them into five groups for each league and ranks them based on various statistics to determine if they are Type A, B or none.

The categories for relief pitchers include total games (total relief appearances plus starts), wins plus saves, innings pitched/hits ration, strikeout-to-walk ratio and ERA.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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