In the first big move of the offseason, the Washington Nationals have agreed to a deal for 2019 All-Star and five year long member of the retooling Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nationals will send pitching prospects Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean in exchange for the power hitting first baseman. This acquisition fills a big hole in the Nationals infield at first base, and gives the Nationals a All-Star caliber player that has team control until 2023. Only going into his age 28 season, it was surprising to see Pittsburgh part with Bell for such an underwhelming return for arguably their best trade piece going into the 2021 season.
Bell is coming off a down 2020 campaign, and really has not been the same hitter we saw burst on the scene in the first half of 2019, and since then, coupled with being a bottom tier defensive first baseman, has struggled to make consistent contact since the first half of 2019. His 2020 season ended up with a .226/.305/.364 line with a .669 OPS and 83 OPS+, compared to his .936 OPS and 142 OPS+ breakout season in 2019, it was quite the contrast. When it comes to driving the ball, Bell still did a tremendous job of that in 2020, ranking in the top 87th percentile in Exit Velocity at 91.7 MPH. The strikeouts on the other hand, took a huge step back in 2020, as a struck out almost 27 percent of the time in 2020, a far cry from his career 19 percent strikeout rate.
Going back to Pittsburgh, Wil Crowe made his big league debut in 2020 at the age of 25, posting a 11.88 ERA in 8.1 innings and showed a serious problem when it came to throwing strikes, walking eight and hitting a batter in his limited time in the big leagues. Crowe is a junk baller, who’s average fastball velocity in 2020 was 91.5 MPH and is best known for his slider in the lower levels. The most interesting piece that went over to Pittsburgh was 19 year old Eddy Yean, who has shown electric stuff in them in the minors, and has the potential to be an every day pitcher in the future for the Pirates.
It is easy to look at this trade and say the Pirates were fleeced, and yeah after the Archer trade its hard to not say that about the Pirates, but when it comes to trading youth it is always a waiting game. But the Nationals now look like a team that is only a few pieces away from contending in the NL East, especially with a lineup that features Soto, Turner, Bell, Robles and underrated Starlin Castro. You combine that with a starting rotation that if all healthy is one of the best three in the game, and you’re looking at the window reopening for contention for another title.