Heath Bell is among the premier closers in the game, if not the best. He's a good guy, a good teammate and really wants to stay in San Diego. The fans love him and he loves the fans. And he must (and I believe will) be traded prior to the mid-Summer trading deadline.
The Padres are going nowhere this season. Their need for a premier closer in 2011 is to win games in which they're ahead by a run or two going into the ninth, of which there will be precious few. If Bell keeps producing the way he has, it could mean the difference between a 3rd or 4th place division finish rather than 5th. Then again, maybe not.
The Padres have three excellent candidates to fill Bell's role: Adams, Gregorson and Frieri. Of those, Frieri may well have the best temperament to close, if not yet the best stuff. The point is, the Padres will hardly be left high and dry should Bell depart. A three way competition for new Padres closer later this season may be about the only thing left to retain fan interest.
Bell's gaudy save numbers should be worth a jackpot of golden prospects from a contending team come late July. Equal to or exceeding what the club got for Adrian. It will be a seller's market soon, and of course Bell is in the final year of his $7.5 million contract. Paying less than half that for the game's top closer, for two months plus postseason would be a drop in the bucket for most teams in the thick of a pennant race.
In the great book "Moneyball", the point was made that closers are systematically overpriced, largely because of the sole statistic by which they're judged: the save. A save is earned quite easily in many siturations; i.e. a three run lead going into the 9th. Most slightly above average pitchers could be given the closer's role, accumulate a gaudy number of saves with a winning team, then get blue ribbon trade value after a year or two. The point was made that supposedly great closers are far more fungible than, say, great hitters.
Let me clarify...Heath Bell is not a mirage. He is the real deal. Baseball people know this. That's why he will generate huge returns on the trade market this summer. The Padres will get tremendous prospects in exchange for a 33 year old pitcher they can't afford in 2012 anyway. And best of all, there is someone waiting in the wings who can and likely will become the third straight Padres superstar in the closer's role.
Gotta happen and will.