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Heath Bell: Red Sox offer came up short in years and dollars

12.05.11 at 4:20 pm ET
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DALLAS — For closer Heath Bell, the progression seemed natural. At the beginning of the offseason, he thought that there might be a possibility that he would land with the Phillies. When the Phillies signed former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, Bell assumed that Boston might come calling.

“Honestly, when [Papelbon] left the Red Sox, I thought there was an opportunity,” Bell said at the winter meetings, following a press conference where his three-year, $27 million deal with the Miami Marlins was announced. “I thought, ‘Red Sox would be cool. I’ve got an inside track. I know [Red Sox first baseman and former Padres teammate Adrian Gonzalez] real well.’

“I know Adrian made a couple phone calls. But for whatever reason, the contract that they offered wasn’t living up to what my guys thought we could get. They said other clubs did offer a little bit more. I thought this was the best fit for me and my family. The National League East is definitely open. The Marlins can definitely win this year.”

Since emerging as Padres closer in 2009, Bell has been among the best in the game. Over the last three years, he has a 2.36 ERA with more than a strikeout an inning while averaging 44 saves a year. That made him, along with Papelbon, one of the premier closers on the market this winter, but the Sox did not pursue him as aggressively as did Miami. Asked whether the Sox’ offer came up short in years or dollars, Bell, 34, said, “A little bit of both.”

The years, Bell suggested, were particularly important. He felt that teams that did not come up to three years would leave him in too uncertain a state going forward.

“I really wanted to know that I was going to be someplace for multiple years. I didn’t want to go someplace for a year or two. I wanted to build something there,” said Bell. “I’m a huge guy of the community. I wanted to do as much as I can to help the organization out. I don’t think in one or two years you can do that. I think you can put your stamp on two, three, four years.”

Now, he will have the opportunity to do that with a Marlins team that is suddenly spending more aggressively than any other free agent in baseball this offseason as it prepares to move into a new ballpark.

Read More: Heath Bell, Hot Stove 2011, Jonathan Papelbon,
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