Like magic, the annual “hey, it’s about to get quiet” post is *immediately* followed by one of the biggest trades of the offseason.
The Nationals have added a potentially major bat at the happy expense of the Pirates:
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
Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe for Bell is the deal
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 24, 2020
Bell, 28, finally looked like a breakout star at the plate in 2019, but a disastrous 2020 season, atrocious defense at first base, and just two more years of control meant a pretty limited market for the Pirates. Bell is expected to get about $6 to $7 million in arbitration this coming season, which is no small amount, either.
Still, the Nationals get an upside bat (Bell hit .277/.367/.569 with a 135 wRC+ in 2019) for a couple pitching prospects in the top ten of their very weak system.
For the Pirates, it’s another opportunity to add some youth to the system, save some money, and – most importantly? – be terrible in 2021. They are, and have been, in full-on tank mode. So unloading Bell is probably a net “plus” to their long-term strategy no matter what they got in return.
As for the implications, beyond the Pirates being even worse in the NL Central, you’ve got the Nationals picking up a first baseman or a DH for those vacant spots, and now they can decide whether or not to bring back Ryan Zimmerman. It’s possible they’ll now be more contented to stick with what else they have in the infield (including Carter Kieboom at third base), and they may be much less enthused about trying to acquire another bat in trade like Kris Bryant.