Marlins, Bell on verge of three-year deal

Marlins, Bell on verge of three-year deal

Marlins, Bell on verge of three-year deal
MIAMI -- To become a serious contender, the Marlins understand they need a lockdown closer. They are on the verge of signing one of the best in the game.

Late Thursday night, the Marlins reached agreement on a three-year deal with Heath Bell, pending completion of a physical. According to multiple reports, the contract is worth $27 million.

Bringing in Bell is the first major free-agent pickup for the newly renamed Miami Marlins.

With the Padres, Bell logged three straight 40-plus save seasons. His 132 saves are the most in the Majors since he became a full-time closer in 2009.

The arrival of Bell, 34, means the Marlins plan to move on from bringing back Juan Carlos Oviedo, the reliever formerly known as Leo Nunez.

At the end of the season, the Marlins placed Oviedo on the restricted list. The right-hander is in the Dominican Republic clearing up legal issues related to his identity. Oviedo is arbitration-eligible, but now he likely will be non-tendered.

In Bell, the Marlins obtain an All-Star with a fastball in the upper 90s. He saved 43 of 48 attempts with San Diego in 2011.

In the Marlins' history, only four times has a closer reached the 40-saves plateau. Todd Jones was the last do so, posting 40 in 2005. Armando Benitez holds the franchise single-season record with 47 in 2004.

Bell broke in with the Mets in 2004, and he has logged 435 games, with 134 saves in 160 chances.

In Miami, Bell will unite with several of his former San Diego teammates. Last week, the Marlins obtained lefty starter Wade LeBlanc from the Padres for catcher John Baker.

After the 2010 season, the Marlins acquired relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica from San Diego for outfielder Cameron Maybin. Bell also is a former San Diego teammate of Miami setup reliever Clay Hensley.

Now that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been ratified, the Marlins are expected to be active on the market. The new agreement establishes the business groundwork for the game over the next five years.

Under the new CBA, the Marlins don't have to give up a Draft pick as compensation to sign Bell.

With the Marlins moving into their new ballpark, they have more revenue to spend on players. Their payroll projects to be in the $85 million to $90 million range, after being at $58 million in '11.

The Marlins also are courting free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, as well as lefties Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson. Reyes, Buehrle, Wilson and Albert Pujols all have visited the Marlins' new ballpark and met with team officials in Miami.

Landing Bell scratches the need for a closer off the Marlins' shopping list as the team prepares for the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Dallas.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.