According to Jeff Passan, the Washington Nationals have traded for Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell in exchange for Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean, two pitchers in the Nationals farm system. The Nationals need a power bat in the middle of the lineup to protect Juan Soto and Trea Turner and the trade for Bell provides that. Although he is coming off a rough 2020 campaign, batting just .226, Bell was an All-Star in 2019 with 37 home runs and a .367 on-base percentage. The Pirates receive Crowe, the Nationals third-best prospect according to MLB.com, and Yean, the Nationals sixth-best prospect.
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.
— 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.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 24, 2020
The Nationals Get Their Power Bat
Last season, the Nationals signed Eric Thames in hopes of replacing some of the production by Anthony Rendon. However, Thames struggled mightily last season with just three home runs while Howie Kendrick dealt with an injury. Mike Rizzo made getting a power bat a major priority this offseason by acquiring Bell. In 2019, Bell had a .569 slugging percentage and a .936 OPS. Despite hitting 12 home runs in 2018, the Nationals need the 2017-2019 version of Josh Bell, rather than the 2020 version. Bell had a 2.68 strikeout to walk ratio and a .364 slugging percentage, a .205 point drop from 2019.
Behind Soto and Turner, Bell, a switch hitter, should force pitchers to pitch to Soto and Turner with his power. If Turner were on base, then Bell could see a heavy dosage of fastballs due to Turner’s speed, making him a perfect fit.
The Pirates Return
In exchange for Josh Bell, the Pirates trade for two of the Nationals top six prospects. Crowe made his MLB debut last season and struggled with a 11.88 ERA in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Crowe still has upside with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a solid slider. Yean is a “lottery ticket” prospect as he is just 19 years old. He has pitched 90 innings in professional baseball with a fastball that touches 97 and a plus slider in the mid-80s.
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