The Marlins have closed the book on failed closer Heath Bell.
Bell was traded Saturday to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a three-team exchange in which the Marlins received minor-league infielder Yordy Cabrera from the Oakland A’s. The A’s received outfielder Chris Young from Arizona.
In order to complete the deal, the Marlins agreed to absorb $8 million of the $21 million still owed to Bell over the remainder of his contract.
Given how the disgruntled Bell was a disaster on the mound and a pariah figure within his own clubhouse, the Marlins were more than happy to pay some of his salary just to get rid of him.
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It took them only 17 days from the end of the season to find a trading partner — Arizona — willing to take him off their hands.
“This should be a positive change for Heath and the Marlins,” said Larry Beinfest, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations. “After a disappointing 2012 season, Heath gets a fresh start and this move gives us clarity as we begin our offseason roster improvement.”
The burly 35-year-old pitcher was not only one of the biggest busts the franchise has known, but he also was the biggest failure on an underperforming team that was full of them.
The Marlins signed the reliever last December to a three-year, $27 million deal thinking he would duplicate the All-Star qualities he displayed with the San Diego Padres. But he struggled from the start, blowing three saves in April and six before the All-Star break before being stripped of the closer’s role.
All told, Bell went 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA and converted only 19 of his 27 save chances.
Unhappy with his diminished role, the bitter Bell was openly critical of pitching coach Randy St. Claire, the training staff, Marlins catchers, sportswriters, and even the Showtime production crew that filmed The Franchise. Bell said he was portrayed too negatively during the reality series.
For the Marlins, the final straw might have come the final week of the season when Bell, in a live radio interview, said it was “hard to respect” manager Ozzie Guillen.
The following day, Bell’s teammates, in a show of support for Guillen, turned on the manager’s weekly radio show inside the clubhouse, raised the volume, and made Bell listen to Guillen state that he no longer respected Bell “as a person.”
Cabrera, 22, was a prep star at Lakeland High School and committed to play at the University of Miami. But he turned down the scholarship offer and went pro after Oakland picked him in the second round of the 2010 draft.
At Single A Stockton (Calif.) last season, Cabrera hit .232 with three homers and mostly played shortstop. He is currently playing third base in the Arizona Fall League.
As part of the deal, the Diamondbacks received infielder Cliff Pennington from Oakland.