To be clear, I think the Padres will probably trade Heath Bell. The Rangers, Phillies and Cardinals all seem like they have enough motivation to get something done there.
But I do think it's worth noting that the Padres' message, standard for teams shopping players in their walk years - "We can just keep the guy and get the draft picks this winter" - has more merit than usual.
That's because a reliever's value is such that he really might not get the value in a trade that he would with those two draft picks. There are other relief options available, like Baltimore's Koji Uehara and San Diego's Mike Adams, and many clubs are wary of the general volatility of relievers, even one as accomplished as Bell.
The Padres also say that they could keep Bell and re-sign him, although that seems like more of a stretch. However, they could offer Bell arbitration this winter, and if Bell doesn't like the look of the landscape - with guys like Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez also out there, and with the Yankees probably out of the bidding (assuming Mariano Rivera's good health) - then Bell could accept arbitration. Also a stretch, but just going over all of the possibilities here.
As we've discussed here previously, the only instance I can think of a non-contending team actually keeping its player and settling for the draft picks was Washington with Alfonso Soriano in 2006. I don't think the Padres will join that list with Bell, not with the aggressive way that Texas and Philadelphia, in particular, operate. But I think San Diego would have a better case than most for keeping the player in this instance.
--The Rays lost their third straight to the A's - hey, maybe Oakland will make the World Series, after all - and it figures that Tampa, now nine games behind the Yankees in the loss column, will start opening for business as sellers. Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth and B.J. Upton are the most likely players to be sent elsewhere.
James Shields? Gosh, I don't see it, not unless it's an outrageously good deal for Tampa Bay.
--Here's my column on the Carlos Beltran trade.
--I'm headed to Philadelphia tonight for Beltran's Giants debut. I'll check in from there.