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Going with this because a scout told Pirates beat writer (at The Athletic) Rob Biertempfel he could see it happening to clear up holes at first base and in the middle of their order, and I couldn’t think of anything else to put here. Plus in that article, Jim Bowden said he’s still big on Bell. And he’s good at talent evaluation.
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DECEMBER 24, 2020 – TWITTER:
Per sources: Pirates closing in on a trade of Josh Bell to the Nationals.
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) December 24, 2020
First baseman Josh Bell has been traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Washington Nationals, a source tells ESPN. Two young pitchers headed back to Pittsburgh.
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— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 24, 2020
Can confirm that the Nationals are acquiring first baseman Josh Bell in a trade with the Pirates. Reported return to PIT is two young pitchers in Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean. @JMackeyPG was first to mention a deal was brewing.
The Pittsburgh Pirates traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals for pitching prospects Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe on Thursday.
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Crowe was the third-ranked prospect in the Nationals organization, and Yean ranked sixth, per MLB.com.
Jeff Passan of ESPN and Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported the deal and the players involved.
Bell has spent his entire career with the Pirates, emerging as a power-hitting All-Star during the 2019 season. He struggled during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign, hitting .226/.305/.364 with eight home runs and 22 runs batted in, but the Nationals are banking on a bounce-back in a stronger lineup.
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The Pirates are moving on from Bell in what amounts to a long-term cash-saving measure. He has one year of arbitration remaining before he reaches free agency after the 2022 season.
The Pirates regularly have one of the lowest payrolls in the sport. Bell likely would have been out of their price range once he hit the open market, so they’re getting ahead off the curve by trading him—receiving more in return and punting on a 2021 campaign in which they were not expected to compete.
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The Nationals could be more likely to pay Bell over the long term, especially if he returns to 2019 form. If not, the opportunity cost is relatively low. He’s a dangerous power bat who can hit in the Nos. 4-6 slots but doesn’t bring much (if anything) defensively.
Washington desperately needed help at first base after Eric Thames struggled to fill the spot in 2020.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 24, 2020
According to the multiple reports above, the Nationals are acquiring Josh Bell, 28, from the Pirates in return for pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean.
Bell, a 2011 2nd Round pick by Pittsburgh, is coming off a .226/.305/.364 campaign in 2020 which saw the first baseman hit three doubles and eight homers in 57 games and 223 plate appearances, over which he was worth -0.4 fWAR in his fifth big league season in the Bucs’ lineup.
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In his last full season in 2019, Bell, a 6’4’’, switch-hitting, right-hand throwing first baseman, put up a .277/.367/.569 line, with career highs in doubles (37) and home runs (37), over 143 games and 613 PAs in a 2.5 fWAR campaign.
The Nationals are acquiring Bell, who has two years of team control left, in return for Crowe, 26, who made his MLB debut with the club in 2020, and Yean, 19, who signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2017.
Crowe was ranked No. 3 on the MLB Pipeline list of the Nats’ top prospects this year, while Yean, who pitched in the Gulf Coast and New York/Penn League’s in 2019, was ranked 6th overall in the organization.
GM Mike Rizzo talked last week about a power bat being the organization’s No. 1 priority this offseason, and mentioned finding one who could play first base or a corner outfield spot as the ideal addition. It looks like the first big move of the offseason is to add some middle-of-the-order pop at first base.
What’s next for Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office? What do you think of adding Bell to the mix in the nation’s capital? And the cost? The club just made the deal official…
“We are thrilled to be adding a player of Josh Bell’s caliber to our team,” Nationals’ President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a press release today.
“He adds a switch-hitting power bat to our lineup. And we know Josh will be an outstanding addition to our clubhouse and our community.”