The Miami Marlins made their first big signing of the offseason Thursday night, signing former San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell to a 3-year, $27 million contract.
According to ESPN.com, Bell and the Marlins have all but agreed to the deal, which may include an option for a fourth year. Bell is expected to take a physical on Friday.
All that future revenue from the new stadium set to open next season must have been burning the figurative hole in the Marlins' pocket. Bell will make more money than all but Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson in 2012.
Bell had been the subject of countless trade rumors for the past year, but San Diego never pulled the trigger. The Marlins were at one point rumored to be interested in trading for Bell before the trade deadline 2009.
Bell saved 132 games over the past three seasons for the Padres. However, the underlying stats suggest a different story. Bell's K/9 fell from 11.06 in 2010 to 7.32 in 2011, and his batting average on balls in play (a measure of hitter's luck, for lack of a better word) dropped from .322 to .261. Those numbers could be aberrations, or they could mean Bell is less overpowering but has been too lucky for anyone to notice.
The eight-year veteran was with San Diego for the past five years, following a three-year stint with the Mets.
How big is this deal for the Marlins? Only three free agent pitchers have ever been given 3-year deals in team history: Alex Fernandez, Al Leiter, and Kevin Brown (all over 10 years ago).
All of this is to say that the Marlins are putting their money where their mouth is regarding the expected revenue their new stadium will pull in. Determined not to field a team on the cheap anymore, the Fish may have overpaid for a pitcher who will most assuredly throw less than 80 innings a season.
The move all but spells the end for incumbent closer Juan Carlos Oviedo's career with the Marlins. Miami is unlikely to offer him a contract over the winter with Bell on board.
Logan Morrison welcomed Bell aboard via Twitter. "Welcome @HeathBell21!" he said to the fellow tweeting ballplayer. He added, "Friends? Best friends?"