The Tolling of the Iron Bell Calls the Faithful to Their Knees
The Phils signed free-agent third baseman David Bell today to a 4-year, $17 million contract. Hopes are that this will be the first of three signings-Jim Thome an Tom Glavine being the others. And it is encouraging to hear that Bell turned down a similar proposal from his old team, the Giants, especially since I was just beginning to feel that the Phils would be used by all the free agents to elicit better deals elsewhere:
"So many factors went into this decision," Bell said. "But I had to go with what I felt in my heart, and I felt that going to the Phillies was where I wanted to be."
Bell's career with the Phils will inevitably be compared to the man whom he replaces, Scott Rolen. Rolen was traded to the Cardinals during the 2002 season because his relationship with the team had soured after they had failed to work out a new deal in the off-season. It is an unfair comparison for Bell. Bell is not as good a player as Rolen either at the plate or in the field. Also, Rolen is three years Bell's junior, though Bell will be thre years younger when his deal runs out than Rolen would be at the end of the proposed Phils' deal. Bell showed me during the playoffs that he is a better all-around than I had been led to believe though he will have the occasional lapse in the field. One thing to keep in mind is that the Phils' last offer to Rolen was 10 years at $140 M. Bell is considerably cheaper and relatively cheap when you see salaries like $4.25 M to Neifi Perez and $6.25 to Rey Ordonez bandied about. If the Phils can sign Jim Thome to $75 M contract, they would have signed two productive players for about $50 M less than they were willing to pay Rolen (though over a longer period of time). That would be a pretty good turnaround.