After making an offseason splash by courting some of the top free agents, the Miami Marlins hope to leave baseball’s annual winter meetings with a few new faces.
But it appears they already have one.
Free agent closer Heath Bell has agreed to a three-year, $27-million contract with the Marlins, pending a physical, ESPN.com reported.
Bell and another free agent pitchers, left-hander C.J. Wilson, both got separate tours of the team’s new ballpark during the final week of November, following tours given to Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.
The Marlins’ pursuit of Bell was intriguing. The team seemingly preferred to have Juan Carlos Oviedo -- the former Leo Nunez -- return as its closer in 2012, but Oviedo is still on baseball’s restricted list as he works with authorities in the Dominican Republic on his immigration issues.
The Marlins were expected to non-tender Oviedo because of the lingering uncertainty, and now that Bell is on board that would seem to be a certainty. Bell saved 132 games over the last three seasons for San Diego, including 43 saves in 48 chances in 2011.
The Marlins, Red Sox and Blue Jays were considered to be the teams most interested in signing Bell, 34. San Diego’s unofficial best offer was a two-year deal with an option for 2014.
The Padres previously offered Bell salary arbitration. Assuming his deal with the Marlins goes through, San Diego will get a first-round pick and a supplemental first-rounder in next June’s draft as compensation for losing Bell.
During last season, Bell said he’d probably accept salary arbitration if the Padres offered it, but he ultimately backed off that stance.
The team told Wilson it wants him in the starting rotation, although it’s unclear if an offer was made during Wilson’s visit with the Marlins in Miami on Nov. 28.
“They rolled out the red carpet. They seem to have a plan and made it very clear they’d like C.J. to be a part of it,” Bob Garber, Wilson’s agent, said after the visit.
“They made it very clear they want him. I think he really impressed everybody today with his charisma. I think he’d be a great fit in South Florida.”
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