Bell is swell and the 'M' on his cap is swollen

DALLAS – The hallways here aren't necessarily pretty.

Pick an alcove.

Bobby Valentine can be found explaining his role if and when the Boston Red Sox release themselves from organizational reorganization stuff and target possibly available Japanese players.

"Well, you know, maybe," he said. "No one's asked."

A young man from somewhere you've never heard of will lay in wait for a director of player development you've never heard of, screw up the nerve to stick out his hand, and get blown off.

And Heath Bell(notes) will wander past wearing a Miami Marlins jersey over his shirt-and-tie, along with a cap with this huge M on the crown. Like, a foot too much M.

Presumably, it stands for Miami. Though, it could be Marlins. Maybe it represents both, which is why they made it so freakin' big. Maybe Miami, Marlins and Morrison, as in Logan. It's a big M.

Anyway, Bell and the Marlins made it official Monday afternoon, holding a news conference in a large ballroom. Bell's parents and wife attended, as did the owner, president of baseball operations, general manager and public relations chief of the Marlins. The contract is for $27 million over three years, along with a vesting fourth-year option for another $9 million. That, you knew.

Presumably most of the Marlins front office came because the club also agreed to a six-year, $106-million contract with shortstop Jose Reyes(notes) on Sunday night, and has more money out there on offers to first baseman Albert Pujols(notes), starter Mark Buehrle(notes) and closer Ryan Madson(notes) – and they rotated shotgun in the armored car from Miami.

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In every little corridor, the talk here continues to be the Marlins – their money, their nerve, their Miami-fest destiny. And, of course, where all this money came from.

It seems that for a moment in time the Marlins have taken the role of the New York Yankees.

They have bids – or have hinted at bids – on every major free agent.

So, the trade market has slowed while everyone sorts out the Marlins and their many battles with many other clubs, and a general manager such as Jerry Dipoto of the Los Angeles Angels ponders the cost of free agents against that of a trade to fill out his rotation.

Dipoto presumably spoke for many general managers when he said Monday evening he would be disappointed if he went into spring training with his current aligned pitching staff, and yet nothing of real substance has developed.

"I can't say as I've learned anything definitively," he said.

On the other side, Billy Beane, who has pitchers to trade, carves his way through the corridors here and measures the supply of free agents against what he has to offer.

He says with a shrug, "The thing is, we don't have to move them."

Yet, he tells the writers who cover his Oakland Athletics, "I feel like the hottest prom date."

See, it's a moving target, just as it might be for Kenny Williams, the GM of the Chicago White Sox who might also spare a pitcher or two, and the Houston Astros, who would love to off-load Wandy Rodriguez(notes) and/or Brett Myers(notes).

It doesn't stop there, either.

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The Marlins are all hopped up on Pujols, too, which pushes the St. Louis Cardinals, along with the Chicago Cubs, and perhaps holds the attention of the Texas Rangers, among other possibilities. Same lies with first baseman Prince Fielder(notes), who appears to be running with Pujols on all fronts, with slight variance.

At least the Marlins have added their closer – that being Bell, which should loosen the closer market for the Boston Red Sox, among others. The A's believe teams in need of a closer would be better served with their Andrew Bailey(notes) and a few more years of contractual control than, say, one of the free agents out there.

That, too, will sort itself out.

And while speculation has the Angels endeavoring to add a closer, the fact is Dipoto's emphasis has been first on starting pitching and then on a reliever or two who could tighten up any of the game's final three innings.

"The reliever market is a little bit spastic," Dipoto said, "and that's an annual event."

The Marlins – these specific Marlins – are not an annual event, which has brought some gaping.

"I know there's been a lot written, a lot said, a lot of rumors out there," Marlins president Larry Beinfest said. "It's very different for us. For those of you that know me and Mike [Hill, the general manager], we try to keep things quiet and do things under the radar so it's been a little uncomfortable in that respect. We'll see what happens. We've been very aggressive, we'll continue to be aggressive, and we just want to make the club better."

Logan Morrison(notes), the club's chatty outfielder, meanwhile took to Twitter to pose the question: "Out of surgery. Everything went well. Have we signed Pujols yet?"

And Bell, in what was supposed to be his news conference, sat between Beinfest and Hill and fielded questions about his new teammate Jose Reyes, and what Hanley Ramirez(notes) might look like at third base, while Beinfest and Hill looked on uncomfortably.

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Afterward, owner Jeffrey Loria was asked about the likes of another monster hitter, the likes of Pujols or Fielder.

"One big hitter?" he told reporters. "Well, I don't know about that, but there's a possibility of another player or two we're looking at."

Then the Marlins left the ballroom, through the crowded hallways, past the alcoves, with Bell wearing that cap.

Reyes should be announced in the coming hours. Pujols and Fielder are still on the table.

And it felt like the offseason – and the Marlins – had barely gotten started.


Free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal(notes) underwent an appendectomy last week in Florida, according to a friend. He is recovering. … The Pujols market appears to be Cardinals, Marlins, Cubs and perhaps another club. … Fielder's market is believed to include the Seattle Mariners, but that looks like a long shot. … The Dodgers signed Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) to a two-year, $6-million contract. They've added Mark Ellis(notes), Adam Kennedy(notes) and Hairston Jr. They also appeared to be closing in on a contract with Aaron Harang(notes) and already have signed Chris Capuano(notes). … The Reyes signing leaves Jimmy Rollins(notes) and Furcal as the most attractive unsigned shortstops. Of the teams that appear to need shortstops – Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, St. Louis and Milwaukee – the Cardinals and Brewers might need closure on Pujols and Fielder, respectively, first. The Brewers are losing hope, meaning the numbers are getting big. … Closer Matt Capps(notes) agreed to a one-year deal ($4.75 million) with an option to re-sign with the Minnesota Twins. The Twins still need outfielders (Michael Cuddyer(notes)? Jason Kubel(notes)? Josh Willingham(notes)?).

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