It looks like the MLB rumor mill has chosen its newest future-St.-Louis-Cardinal: Heath Bell, the San Diego Padres' post-Hoffman closer who's vaulted into the top of the not-top-tier of baseball's closers, has been linked to the Cardinals in any number of configurations almost from the moment the himself tolled on Ryan Franklin's career, and as the trade deadline approaches it's only getting louder. Only a sterling run from Fernando Salas, the team's rookie closer-by-default, could keep Bell's name out of the headlines before July 31, and even then I think the headline would be that the Cardinals didn't need to trade for him, after all.
Bell is a great reliever, but Petco Park is a great place for a guy with a hard fastball to go and throw hard fastballs, and as a free agent at the end of the season the Cardinals would be paying out the nose for maybe 30 innings from their new closer. If free agent compensation survives unscathed the team could also count on two draft picks after losing him to the market, but teams have of late become exceptionally reticent about losing their picks.
Bell—and the related Heath Bell-and-Jason-Bartlett-for-no-reason trade—won't be a panacea; he'll make the team better in 2011, but it's easy to see a route in which he makes them worse in 2012.