The Baltimore Orioles and relief pitcher Heath Bell have agreed to a minor league contract, the Orioles announced yesterday. If he reaches the Major Leagues, he will receive the minimum MLB salary of $500,000.
The Tampa Bay Rays just released Bell five days prior to him reaching an agreement with the Orioles. They still owe him the remainder of his three-year, $27 million deal he signed back in 2012, regardless of whether he reaches the Major Leagues again this season or not. The 36-year-old received interest from a few teams, according to reports, before choosing the Orioles.
From 2009 through 2011, Bell was the primer closer in the Majors. During that stretch, he ranked first in the MLB in saves with 132, a good 10 saves above the player in second, Brian Wilson. Only seven closers reached 100 saves during that stretch. Bell posted a 2.36 ERA, 2.54 FIP, and a 157 ERA+ during those dominant seasons. Since those three All Star years, Bell has been trying to return to form. He's 10-8 with a 4.91 ERA, 3.99 FIP, and an 80 ERA+ since 2011, just saving 34 games.
One of Heath Bell's top issues is his strikeout rate. Bell struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings from 2009 to 2011, the best three year stretch of his career. He also was able to keep runners off of the bases, posting a very low 1.157 WHIP during that time. Since, both of those statistics have fallen off of the table, causing Bell to give up a lot of runs. His 1.507 WHIP is 0.350 higher, and his 8.8 strikeout per nine innings rate is 0.8 higher, allowing opposing teams to tee off of Bell.
The Orioles could use all the bullpen help they can get. Their bullpen has posted the 16th-worst ERA in the Majors. Their bullpen ranks 26th in OPS against. If the Orioles can reinvent Bell into a decent reliever, this signing can prove to be very important down the stretch. But that is a big "if." Keep your tabs on Heath Bell as he hopes to rejuvenate his Major League career once again, this time with the Baltimore Orioles.