Last offseason the Washington Nationals traded for Josh Bell after the Pirates, the only team for which he’d played in his career, was amidst a full rebuild. Bell was down to his final two seasons of arbitration control, and his escalating salaries were accounting for a larger percentage of Pittsburgh’s annually low payrolls. Last season, Bell added some value to his “stock” by appearing in 144 games and tallied 568 trips to the plate this past season. His 27 home runs were the second-most of his career, trailing only his 37 home runs from 2019. Overall, Bell hit .261/.347/.476, an offensive showing that checked in 18 percentage points above the league average by the measure of wRC+. Not bad for a 29-year old looking to rebound from a not-so-good 2020.
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Now, Bell is entering his final year of club control and the Nationals are in a midst of a “re-tool,” and might not make the playoffs or come even close this season so could Bell be a piece that the Nationals trade at the deadline. Bell wasn’t part of that midseason sell-off, but there figures to be a bit more interest around the league after his strong play down the stretch. There are some dominoes that may have to fall before there’s much progress on a potential Bell trade such as who will sign some other high profile 1st baseman such as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo. There are some other first baseman that might be traded or moved once the lockout is over such as A’s first baseman Matt Olson or if the Yankees move Luke Voit.
According to MLBTradeRumor Bell’s projected salary is going to be $10M so the Nationals might not get a strong return for Bell, as Oakland would get for Olson or New York would recoup for Voit. However, there might be teams that don’t land stars at first base that might be willing to acquire Bell at the trade deadline or even before. Another factor in the decision-making process for the Nationals and what they could get back for a trade is the results of the CBA. If Major League Baseball and the Players Union agree and introduce universal designated hitter, some National League clubs looking for another bat to come off the bench. The Nationals could even be one of those teams.
Another important factor to keep in mind is who would play at first base if Bell gets traded. That is where things get a bit completed. As of now we still haven’t heard what Ryan Zimmerman is going to be doing in the upcoming season and even if Ryan Zimmerman comes back for another season he most likely will not be the National’s full-time first baseman. According to MLB.com’s Nationals depth chart, the next man up is Riley Adams, however, he hasn’t played at first base ever in his career. Back in September, Adams did start to get some practice at first base so it could be possible that the Nationals do in fact move Adams to first base full-time. This year’s free-agent market at first base isn’t deep at all, which will once again complicate things a bit.
It could be very possible for Josh Bell to be wearing a new uniform come Opening Day (whenever that is) or even in August after this year’s trade deadline.