When Bill Mueller accepted the Dodgers offer to sign a two-year, $9.5 million deal with Los Angeles, the deal became a moot point. Mueller was also being courted by the Pirates, but his familiarity with Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and manager Grady Little were enough to make him give up the extra quarter-million dollars that the Pirates were offering.
Pittsburgh was waiting to see what would happen with Mueller before really jumping into talks with the Phillies about Bell. Now, they have a decision to make about their future at third base. The top remaining free agent third baseman is Joe Randa and the Pirates may pursue him, bringing him back to Pittsburgh where he played in 1997.
As for trade options, the Pirates are likely not going to pursue Arizona's Troy Glaus and even going after Bell doesn't appear to be too likely. Not only would Bell's contract, which ends after the 2006 season, be an issue, but giving up the players that the Phillies might want could make the deal impossible.
That likely leaves Bell in Philadelphia for the final year of his contract and possibly, in a platoon situation with Abraham Nunez. If Bell is to be dealt, it's likely that it would come closer to the trade deadline at the end of next July.
Elsewhere, the Phillies are waiting to hear back from reliever Braden Looper to see if he'll agree to a deal that the Phillies have put on the table. Looper would like to remain in a closer's role, but the Phillies would use him as a setup man and insurance for closer Tom Gordon, who signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Phillies on December 2nd.