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Rumor Mill: Heath Bell

The Padres might have made a huge error in their decision not to trade closer Heath Bell before the trade deadline.

According to ESPN reports, San Diego approached Bell -- who said he wanted to remain with the Padres and said he would take a discounted contract to do so -- with an offer of two seasons for about $14 million. Buster Olney speculates that the pitcher might get near that much for ONE season if the Padres offer arbitration and Bell accepts it. And Bell said before the deadline that he planned to accept arbitration if it was offered.

The Padres have to offer arbitration if they want to get the two high draft choices Bell's defection to another club would earn the club. But they can't really afford to run the risk that he gets a huge raise because they can't afford it.

San Diego's other option is to trade Bell after the deadline. But the odds are that he will be claimed on waivers -- and then the club stands to lose him with no compensation.

So, I repeat what I said before the deadline: The Padres should have shipped Bell to the Cardinals for a decent prospect or two because they know St. Louis isn't in a position to sign him long term. Then, after the season, they could offer him a free agent deal and have a decent chance to get him back for a price and contract term they are more comfortable with.

The decision to play hardball hurt both the Cardinals and the Padres.