The Marlins appear to have a new closer.
According to multiple sources, the Marlins and All-Star Heath Bell agreed on a three-year deal Thursday night estimated at $9 million per, all pending a physical Friday here in South Florida. ESPN first reported the story.
With the future of incumbent closer Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) up in the air, the Marlins have apparently been working behind the scenes on Bell for awhile.
The 34-year-old right-hander is coming off a 43-save season with the Padres that made him the only closer in baseball who has saved 40-plus games in each of the past three seasons.
Bell was 43 of 48 on save opportunities last season and finished the year with a 2.44 ERA and a WHIP of 1.15.
Assuming he passes the physical, Bell would be the first major free agent the Marlins will have signed since changing their name to the Miami Marlins and moving into the new ballpark.
The Marlins' have wined and dined All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, first baseman Albert Pujols and veteran pitchers Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson this offseason.
While Bell's strikeout rate declined in 2011, from 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2010 to 7.3 this year, his average fastball velocity (94 mph), WHIP (1.15), ERA (2.44) and opponent average (.223) were all in line with his previous performance.
The Marlins led the National League in blown saves in 2010 with 25 and improved last season to sixth fewest with 19. The Marlins also owned the sixth lowest bullpen ERA in baseball (3.44) despite the fourth most innings worth of work (515 1/3).
By signing Bell, the Marlins can now keep Edward Mujica, Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn in setup and late inning roles. Mujica went 9-6 with a team-leading 17 holds and a 2.96 ERA. Cishek was a pleasant rookie surprise, posting a 2.63 ERA while picking up three saves late in the year. Dunn went 5-6 with a 3.43 ERA.
Oviedo, meanwhile, remains in the Dominican Republic where he continues to sort out immigration issues. It wasn't certain that even if Oviedo were cleared soon the Marlins would have tendered him an offer. He stands to make up to $6 million through salary arbitration. It's likely the Marlins will now part ways.