The Padres were probably planning on watching closer Heath Bell hit free agency this winter assuming that the two sides can't come to an agreement on a contract extension, but now it seems highly likely that Bell will still be a Padre come 2012. According to Bill Center of The San Diego Union-Tribune, Bell intends to accept an arbitration offer from the Padres after the season if a contract extension isn't already in place.
Generally, players that are highly likely to receive long-term contract offers won't accept arbitration, and Bell fits into that group of players as an elite closer. But Bell, 34 in September, appears to have a strong desire to stick around San Diego, and he seems to be fully comfortable with taking another one-year deal through the arbitration system.
After making $7.5 million this season, Bell will likely receive a raise to around $10 million for next season through arbitration; even at that price, he's not an awful value on a one-year deal, and the Padres can probably still trade him over the winter even if he's signed on for 2012 with $10 million in salary. Bell told Center that he's looking for a three-year deal from the Padres, which would keep the closer in San Diego through his age-36 season.
Jeff Moorad spoke with XX1090 sports radio after Bell's comments, and he mentions that the Padres don't mind if Bell accepts their arbitration offer. He did add that they're willing to give him a multi-year contract, though they're alright with going year-to-year with the veteran reliever.