Late Thursday night, the Miami Marlins signed right-handed reliever Heath Bell to a 3-year contract with an option for a fourth. Bell has been a top-tier closer with the San Diego Padres since 2009, collecting 40+ saves over the last three years.
In 2011, the Marlins had Leo Nunez / Juan Oviedo as their closer, but he sported a less-than-great 4.06 ERA and 3.96 FIP. However, Nunez / Oviedo sported a strong shutdown / meltdown ratio -- a ratio better than even Bell's.
The truth is: Bell is a proven ace reliever. Nothing changes that. He has been pitching at a high level for multiple years, and even though his strikeout rate was a career low 19% in 2011, he should be a lock for another 30+ shutdowns in 2012.
However, is the timing right?
Earlier this, I took a frank look at the Marlins' talent level and concluded -- without considering their strength of schedule -- that the Marlins, as is, are an 80ish win team. If we add a few unexpected injuries, under-performances, or bad bounces of the ball, then the 2012 Marlins become a mid-70s team.
To reach the playoffs, the Marlins need 90 wins -- maybe 87 or 88, given that there is a second Wild Card spot now. But adding Bell maybe -- maybe -- adds two wins. In other words: The Marlins need to become a sure-fire 85-win team in 2012 for the Bell signing to make sense.
OR: Perhaps the Bell signing acts as a touch of leverage, a symbol to the free agents like Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols, that the Marlins mean business. Buying a closer is what winning franchises do because they are desperate to squeeze out the last win, that final victory between postseason and golf season.
By acquiring Bell, the Marlins may have made themselves look like a more legitimate landing spot to the big free agents, and if that's the case, then Bell would be worth every penny.