On paper the December 2013 trade that brought Heath Bell from the desert to the Gulf coast seemed like a nice addition of Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen depth and a nice sprinkling of leadership. It seemed like a nice added relief corps bonus to insert perfectly between Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour…that is on paper.
Today the Rays did something that could cost them mega bucks for their thrifty franchise, the designated Bell for assignment and if they cannot find another abode for Bell in 2014, the result could be a major blow to any late season help being brought onto the Rays roster.
Bell had a predetermined salary for 2014 of $ 9 million before even pulling on a Ray’s spring jersey, and even with the magical work of financial warlock aka Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, the team is still on the hook for around $5.5 million.
This move smell incredibly like a past Rays decision to shed a player who not only could not live up to his potential, but did not seem to have enough in the tank to provide a possible upside to keeping him on the 25-man roster. Oh, you mean you do not remember the mid-May slashing of offensively anemic Pat Burrell? How soon we forget a DH who hit only .202 with 2 HR and 13 RBIs over his first 24 games back in 2010.
Bell’s Designation For Assignment today unfortunately has the same odor to it. A guy who was counted on for stability and consistency somehow fell into the “Pat the Bat” funk-a-delic whirling dervish and found himself sucked out of a promising M L B clubhouse while on a road trip….double whammy.
Bell appeared in a now unlucky 13 games for the Rays amassing a 1-1 record and a highly elevated 7.27 ERA for the team. In a completely ironic twist, Bell had been used in both games of the Rays current series with the New York Yankees and was rewarded with his first win since August 27, 2013 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Want to know just how much the Rays were counting on Bell this season for consistency and long relief appearances? 4 times already in 2014 Bell had thrown 40 or more pitches in an appearance and with Cesar Ramos doing some short-term starting assignments, the team was counting heavily on Bell to take the long reliever role and stress off the Rays Bullpen until Ramos could return to his familiar role.
Bell just didn’t seem to provide the needed stability even though he was on a roll to surpass his previous long-relief record of 7 appearances with 40 or more pitches set back in 2006 when he was with the San Diego Padres. Maybe another vital nail in the coffin of Bell was the pure fact he had allowed at least a run in 7 of his last 9 trips to the mound with an exclamation point last night surrendering 3 runs on 28 pitches in his late inning of work.
Sure Bell did not provide the Yankees initial runs scored that sunk the Rays chances on Saturday night, but his 3 runs given up during his last Rays appearance definitely added enough weight to tip the Rays scales of not seeing him as a viable option for the rest of the season.
Maybe Bell’s April 24th gig when he gave up at least 5 runs during an outing sent warning bells chiming for the Rays. Possibly the 3-run shot given up to the Twins unknown Aaron Hicks in that appearance might have shown a pure weak spot in Bell’s arsenal that he could again give up double digit HR in consecutive seasons ( he gave up 12 in 2013). Even though during that same game Bell experienced for only the second time in his career entering a contest in the 5th inning.
I think the final ring tolled for Bell in the fact entering Saturday’s game he was tied for second among American League relievers with 21 hits allowed and had right-handers hitting .375 against him compared to his .244 mark set in 2013. Bell ended up giving up 3 more hits on Saturday for an even 2 dozen (24 over 17.1 innings of work. Over the last 7 days Bell has appeared 5 times, thrown for 5.1 innings and seem his WHIP explode upwards( 2.09) with a 3 walk/4 K split over that span.
Some might see my display of Bell’s stats as a bit harsh, but this is a player who has been given the task of protecting leads, admonishing scoring chances and keep his team in a game with his pitching. Bell has not lived up to that task in my opinion for the Rays.
Trust me, I know from talking to some of the Bullpen guys at times that being an M L B reliever is a thankless job at times that requires a Teflon shield and a mind healthy game-to-game case of amnesia, but Bell did not answer the call and so his designation was not unwarranted, but was still alarming until you look deeper into the abyss at his 2014 stats. The Rays will have 10 days to try and trade Bell, waive or release him outright.