Pirates trade Josh Bell to Nationals for pitching prospects

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The Nationals are plugging their hole at first base by banking on a bounce-back.

The Pirates traded Josh Bell to the Nationals on Thursday for pitching prospects Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean, the teams announced.

The 28-year-old Bell was an All-Star first baseman in 2019 before struggling in the 60-game season this year. He hit .226 with a .669 OPS and eight home runs in 57 games, just a year after batting .277 with a .936 OPS and 37 home runs in 143 games.

“We are thrilled to be adding a player of Josh Bell’s caliber to our team,” Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “He adds a switch-hitting power bat to our lineup. And we know Josh will be an outstanding addition to our clubhouse and our community.”

Bell, who is set to earn $6 million in 2021, be arbitration-eligible again in 2022 and then become a free agent in 2023, fills a position of need for the Nationals. Last year, the club started five different players at first base, led by Eric Thames and ex-Met Asdrubal Cabrera, both of whom are currently free agents. Howie Kendrick was another option at the position last year, but he recently announced his retirement.

The price for Bell wasn’t cheap. The Nationals gave up two of their top pitching prospects in Crowe and Yean, though it came from an area of depth. The organization’s top 10 prospects were all pitchers, according to MLB.com, with the right-handed Crowe ranked No. 3 and the right-handed Yean at No. 6.

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