Symbolically the biggest deal since the Jim Thome trade, the Phillies' starting third baseman for the past four seasons was traded to Milwaukee for a 22-year-old reliever last night.
One by one, Pat Gillick is disassembling the bricks from the house his predecessor built. In a perfect world, David Bell would have been the Phillies' keystone defender and understated leader on a World Series winner. He would have erased all memory of superstar third baseman Scott Rolen. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way.
Shopped during the offseason without a match, the 33-year-old veteran was finally unloaded last night to the injury-depleted Brewers, where third baseman Corey Koskie, second baseman Rickie Weeks and shortstop J.J. Hardy are all injured.
The Brewers are responsible for the remaining $1.6 million left on Bell’s contract. Practically speaking, that’s what this is all about.
Ironically, Bell was assembling one of his best months as a Phillie, hitting .361, which including a nine-game hitting streak and a home run. After some early struggles, Bell was hitting a workman’s .277/.345/.398 with six home runs, including a long string of errorless games.
Last night after their 4-1 loss to Florida, Gillick told Comcast SportsNet that utility infielder Abraham Nunez will fill in the rest of the way at third base. Nunez signed a two-year contract this offseason, but in limited chances, has struggled to hit the ball out of the infield. The Phillies also have a handful of Triple-A infielders at their disposal, including Danny Sandoval, Joe Thurston, Brennan King and Bobby Scales.
Gillick also said they did not intend to resign Bell after the season, but said they are still working on ways to improve the position.
Originally, Nunez’s signing seemed to indicate the beginning of the end for Bell in Philadelphia, at least against right-handed pitching, against which he hit .199 in 2005. Instead, Bell maintained his starting role and Nunez has spent the year on the bench.
Last season was Bell’s toughest, perhaps even tougher than his injury-shorted 2003 season, in which he hit .195. Statistically speaking, he ranked in the bottom fourth overall among starting third baseman (according to Hardball Times Win Shares). Batting seventh in a spot in the lineup termed “The Black Hole,” Bell was second in the league in grounding into double plays and gained a reputation for killing rallies.
Defensively, Bell had a knack for coughing up routine plays at critical times, none more critical than the one that happened in a late-season loss to eventual Wild Card winner Houston.
Though his numbers appear as a slight improvement this season, only San Diego and Los Angeles were getting less out of the position in the National League. Bell will fill in for Corey Koskie, who’s been on the DL since July 6 with post-concussion syndrome.
Bell is a career .257 hitter with 119 homers and 560 RBIs in 11 seasons and 1,349 games with the Phils, San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland and St. Louis. He was in the tail end of a 4-year, $17 million deal with the Phils.
The home team received 22-year-old right-hander Wilfredo Laureano in the deal, secondary to the $1.6 million saved from Bell’s remaining contract.
Laureano, originally an amateur signing in 2001, was 3-2 with one save and a 3.96 ERA in 29 appearances for Class-A West Virginia. The 6-foot-6, 170-pound Dominican fanned 62 in 63 2-3 innings, while allowing 54 hits, 36 walks and 7 homers. He was assigned to Low-A Lakewood and becomes the team's second veteran-for-Class-A swap in less than a week.