When I saw a tweet from Buster Olney of ESPN on Wednesday reporting that the San Francisco Giants had been awarded the waiver claim on Heath Bell, I knew that speculation would immediately begin about what the Giants would have to give up to land the All-Star closer. Fact is, Brian Sabean never intended to trade for Bell.
The Giants simply used their position in the standings to prevent the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks from claiming Bell and adding him to their bullpen. Waiver blocking is one of the more intriguing aspects of this part of the baseball season and the Giants played their hand perfectly.
The only risk that a claiming team takes, is the possibility that the claimed player's current team would simply let the player go to the claiming team, leaving the claiming team responsible for the rest of that player's contract. The Giants are in a financial position to take on Bell's remaining 2011 contract in the unlikely situation, where San Diego simply let him go.
Much of the speculation was fueled by the fact that the Giants closer and back-up closer are both on the disabled list with no real timetable for return. To say that the Giants could use the Padres closer at this point is an understatement, but San Diego surely would require major prospects in return.
Bell is a free agent at the end of the season and will be listed as a Type A free agent. This means that the Padres will be granted two compensatory picks for him if they offer him salary arbitration and he declines, signing with another team.
The Padres run a slight risk that he would accept arbitration and saddle them with a $10 million salary in 2012, but that scenario is highly unlikely because Bell has a good relationship with the team.
The Padres would want to get a slightly better package than they will get through the compensation process, which would mean the Giants would have to be willing to part with one or two prospects, most likely at least one of which is on their untouchables list. This simply was never going to happen.
Brian Sabean made a great move by claiming Heath Bell. He knew that it was a winning move for the Giants regardless of the outcome.