Inbox: How long will Bell toll?

Inbox: How long will Bell toll?

Will Padres closer Heath Bell still be on the team in 2012?
-- Ryan C., Cardiff, Calif.

Ryan, I think a better question might be will Bell still be on the Padres on Aug. 1, a day after the Trade Deadline? I'm not entirely certain he will be. I know that general manager Jed Hoyer has had some discussions with Bell's agent about the future, whether that is discussing a 2011 contract (Bell is arbitration-eligible) or possibly about a multiyear deal. I'm inclined to think the club will settle on a one-year deal for Bell and table any long-term discussion for now. Remember, the trade value for a top closer, and Bell is exactly that, is never higher than it is before the Trade Deadline. I'm not saying the Padres will trade Bell, but they will entertain offers. You have to. That's good business. For an organization looking to add young, controllable players, that only makes sense. If you're the Padres and you're offered, say, two prospects for Bell, then you have to look hard at that. Again, this has nothing to do with Bell or his ability. It's business.

Can we have an update on 2009 first-round Draft pick Donovan Tate? Is it likely for him to reach the Major Leagues before 2012?
-- Steve B., Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Good question, especially with Spring Training right around the corner. The Padres are excited that Tate may have finally turned the corner, that he's finally healthy and that 2011 will be an important season for him. Tate, the third-overall pick in '09, was named Most Valuable Player of the Padres' 25-day Instructional League in October. The 20-year-old, who signed for a club-record $6.25 million signing bonus, hit .435 with one home run and five RBIs in seven games in October and also excelled in situational-hitting and defensive drills, according to Randy Smith, the Padres' director of player development. Tate, who has been saddled with several injuries and ailments, is healthy and the Padres expect he'll play a full Minor League season, likely at Class A Fort Wayne. He won't be in the Major Leagues by 2012, that's far too soon. I think you need to give high most school players at least five seasons in the Minor Leagues before you know what kind of player they're going to be. Tate has a ways to go.

Is there any chance Hoyer can get utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. to come back this season?
-- John B., Escondido, Calif.

It's doubtful at this point. The Padres have established that Jason Bartlett (shortstop) and Orlando Hudson (second base) are going to be here for the next two years and the recent non-roster invitation given to Kevin Frandsen shows me that the Padres have essentially moved on from Hairston, who could command $2 million or so. I think that's more than the Padres can or are willing to spend for a utilityman. Yes, I realize that this guy was the unsung hero of the 2010 team. But landing Eric Patterson (in the Adrian Gonzalez trade) and with Oscar Salazar returning, the Padres are nearly set with bench players. I think they will use Patterson to spell Hudson, Frandsen (if he makes the team, and I think that he will) to spell Chase Headley at third base and Bartlett at shortstop.

Headley's offensive production seemed to suffer due to a lack of rest. Who is capable of giving him a rest without making the Padres suffer defensively?
-- Jose M., Chula Vista, Calif.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I think that Frandsen, who has played several infield positions at the Major League and Minor League levels, will be the guy who sees time at third base when Headley gets rest. I think one of Hoyer's biggest regrets in 2010 was not having someone on the roster capable of doing just that. I think you saw that Headley wore down at times. I know the Padres want to avoid this at all costs in '11 and I think Frandsen could be the right guy. I think you'll also see Frandsen get some time at first base.

Do you think Ryan Ludwick will continue playing outfield for San Diego or will he be traded before the season starts?
-- Jose H., Yuma, Ariz.

I don't think Ludwick is going anywhere, especially since the team has parted ways with Gonzalez. The Padres need to keep Ludwick because he's really the only true thumper in the lineup. Remember, one of the reasons the Padres liked Ludwick so much at the Trade Deadline -- other than he was added to give the offense a lift -- was that he was controllable for 2011 (he's arbitration-eligible). He'll be the left fielder on Opening Day and beyond and will hit either third or fourth in the order.

If the Padres are still looking for a veteran catcher to back up Nick Hundley, do you think they would consider trading for Washington's Ivan Rodriguez?
-- Dylan P., Shiloh, Ohio

That's an interesting idea, and I like where you're headed there, but at $3 million for 2011, I think Rodriguez's contract is a little rich for the Padres at this point. Granted, they wanted to add a true veteran catcher to serve as a backup for Hundley, but it didn't happen. Now they've allocated some of that money to sign Hudson. I think that even though the team has added Rob Johnson and Guillermo Quiroz, they will keep looking for catching help. I don't know what they'll find at this point, but you can never have enough catching depth in your system. At some point, it always seems, your backup catcher in Triple-A is in the big leagues for some reason or another.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.