Jim Hendry Hearts Relievers: Chicago Cubs are Still Considering Heath Bell

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry continues his relentless pursuit of a right-handed reliever. But at least this rumor involves a slightly more dominant type.

According to sources, the Cubs are kicking the tires again on Padres closer Heath Bell, as they did at the winter meetings. He would strengthen the bullpen, but Lou Piniella would be back to juggling two would-be closers in Bell and Carlos Marmol, who went 11-for-11 in save situations after Piniella gave him the job. chicagotribune.com.

If you recall, the Cubs have had a long dalliance with Heath Bell – there were rumors of interest before the 2009 season, and then again during the 2009 season. Bell, 32, has been dominant in two of the last three seasons, and was pretty good in the third. He made just over $1 million last year, his first year of arbitration, and should get a significant raise this year.

There are two concerns with Bell: 1.) he led the National League in saves last year, his first as a closer – how do you make that guy a set-up pitcher, rather than the closer? You don’t. Carlos Marmol gone’ be pissed; and 2.) he has averaged an insane 80+ innings per season – all out of the bullpen – over the past three years.

Bell’s cost would make for an interesting discussion. Previously, the Padres had asked the Cubs for a king’s ransom, including at least one of their top prospects (at the time, it was Josh Vitters and Andrew Cashner). Given how much Bell is set to make in arbitration – topping $5 million wouldn’t be a shock – you would have to wonder whether that cost in trade would drop.

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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