Pirates Deal Josh Bell to Washington Nationals

By COMON Network Team

The Pittsburgh Pirates have traded first baseman and slugger Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals, reports say. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was the first to break the news.

The Pirates acquire two right-handed pitchers from the Nationals for Bell, according to Mackey and ESPN’s Jeff Passan, among others. The two hurlers are ranked No. 3 and No. 6 in the entire Nationals’ farm system, according to MLB.com, and both are top 10 in most places.

Wil Crowe is the first, ranked at No. 3. He’s a 26-year old righty who was picked in the 2nd round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. He’s got a career minors ERA of 4.03 in 57 games. He struck out eight in 8.1 innings in three appearances at the big-league level in 2020. The former South Carolina Gamecock is likely MLB ready.

The second pitcher coming to the Steel City is Eddy Yean, mlb.com’s sixth-ranked Nats’ prospect. Yean sported a 3.50 ERA in 10 appearances (all starts) between the GCL Nationals and Auburn Doubledays (NYPL, A-) in 2019. His 1.165 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitcher) came across 46.1 innings in which he fanned 43. Yean is 19 years old.

In 2020, Bell slashed .226/.305/.364 with eight home runs and 22 RBI in 57 games. He had only three doubles. His WAR (wins above replacement) was -0.4 overall last season. He has two years of control left.

Ben Cherington’s comments from the Pirates’ release:

“Wil Crowe commands a solid fastball and several good secondary pitches. He brings a strong reputation and work ethic, and has a chance to compete for Major League innings in 2021,” said Cherington. “Eddy Yean is a Dominican League prospect who was one of the better young pitchers in the short season in 2019. He has a mid-90’s fastball to go along with a promising slider and changeup. Yean will join a growing group of promising starting pitching prospects within our minor league system.”



This seems to me as if it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t type of situation. Josh Bell was brutal and I probably should’ve capitalized the “b” in 2020 for the Pirates. His slash line is above. He is abysmal defensively. He’s 28 years old coming off a horrible season and a bad second half to his All Star season in 2019. The first half of 2019 was a flash in the pan by the looks of it, and there’s no saying he can’t get back to being an above average or even very good hitter, but who knows. He’s got two years of team control left.

Crowe pitched at three different levels within the Nationals farm system in 2018, highlighted by an 11-0 record and a 2.69 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) with High-A Potomac. For his efforts in 2018, Crowe was named the Carolina League Pitcher-of-the-Year and Washington’s co-Minor League Pitcher-of-the-Year.

Here’s some analysis on Crowe from MLB’s prospect page: Crowe’s four-seam fastball features above-average velocity, sitting around 92-94 mph and touching a bit higher at times, but the pitch tends to jump on hitters due to its high spin rate and because he commands it well. He shows similar aptitude for a sinker that he uses to keep batters from sitting on his relatively straight four-seamer. Crowe’s above-average changeup is a swing-and-miss weapon, one that plays nicely off his heater, and he also shows feel for mixing in an average slider and a curveball, with the many scouts preferring the former to the latter. 

They seem to think, and from what I’ve seen early in reaction, he shouldn’t have any problem being a back-end starter pretty immediately.

As for Yean, there’s not much there yet. He’s 19 years old with a big time arm and big upside. He’s touched high 90s and sits mid 90s with his fastball and it’s got late bite to it. Accompany that with a good breaking ball and a plus changeup. He looks like a big plus to me if he pans out and yes, I know, it’s a big if.

Here’s the thing. Josh Bell wasn’t going to make the Pirates a winner in the last two years of his contract and he very likely wouldn’t have been back after that unless he wasn’t good in these next two years. Then at that point, who knows if people would even want him around. I get it, he’s liked, but he’s not Andrew McCutchen or Gerrit Cole when they get dealt. I don’t know that the Pirates could’ve done much better here. I guess if you want to argue they should’ve done it after 2019 then fine, but I’m not generally a fan of praying he’d turn things around enough to get a deal that blows you out of the water at the deadline this coming season or after. The Pirates aren’t going to contend this year. Period. So this isn’t a situation of “the Pirates don’t care about winning” like I’m seeing a lot on social media. It had to happen at some point, and beware, I don’t believe it’ll be the last trade Ben Cherington makes this offseason.

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