Josh Bell To LA

The Dodgers have yet to sign a right handed bat as they wait for Justin Turner negotiations to end one way or another. The rumor right now is he is asking for 3 years, hopefully expecting to sign for 2, but it’s unclear where the Dodger’s front office stand.

Especially with all the possibilities in this market. It’s also rumored that the Pirates are trying to move payroll. So one of the trades worth exploring may be the Pirate’s 1st baseman, Josh Bell. Apparently another world series contender may be looking at the slugger as well.

Highlights

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  • Josh Bell Breakdown
  • Our Offer
  • Why It Works
  • Why It Doesn’t
  • Conclusion

Josh Bell

Bell, 28 years old, is a big 6’4″, 250 pound, switch-hitting first baseman. Think Edwin Rios, but from both sides of the plate. It’s estimated that he’ll make about $6 million this upcoming season in arbitration, and then is signed for one more year of arbitration in 2022. Theoretically, he would only be a two year investment unless the Dodgers choose to extend him.

As of right now, it’s best if he remains exclusively a first baseman. He is capable of playing the outfield, but let’s just say it should only be when Cody and Mookie are out there as well. Muncy or Seager would have to migrate to 3rd to make this work. But Bell’s bat may be worth it.

The big man will be going into his 6th major league season and has been good to outstanding in 4 of his 5 years so far. 2020 will go down as a rough season, but the streaky hitter seemed to be a victim to the weird season. Even in his worst career year, 2020, he still hit 8 HR in 57 games with an OPS of .669

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He was as consistent as could be in his first 3 seasons OPSing .775, .800, and .768 respectively. The OPS+’s were 108, 109, 111. (The second numbers actually earned him 3rd place in NL ROY voting.)

Small, but steady improvement. He also provided the same amount of offensive value, but with very different stats. Signs that he was focusing on improving different parts of his game every year. (Sadly to the degradation of his other plus skills at the plate)

But 2019 finally showed why the Pirates took Bell as the 61st pick of the 2011 draft. He put it all together for a (half) season. He slashed an All Star worthy .277/.367/.569 for an OPS of .936. It translated to an OPS+ of 142, or 42% above average.

He hit a career high 37 homers to go with 94 runs and 116 RBI. He also matched it with 37 doubles and 3 triples. And somehow, he played less (143 games) than any full season before it.

But it was the tale of two halves. In the first half of the season, he hit 27 of those homers, 30 of those doubles and slashed an MVP worthy .302/.376/.648. In the second half, he hit a lousy .233/.351/.429 with about half the production.

Overall, Bell has been a very well rounded .261/.349/.466 throughout his career for an OPS+ of 116. As of right now, baseball reference projects him right around his career averages with 23 homers and a slash line of .255/.345/.459. They also compare him to other MLBers through 27, and Bell is in the likes of Eric Karros, Brandon Belt, and David Ortiz. Very good company at 1st.

We will note that as a switch hitter, he is better in his career as a left handed batter and the Dodgers need a right handed bat more. But the switch hitting does give the Dodgers the advantage when it comes to lineup configurations. (i.e. sandwich him between two lefties out of Seager, Muncy, Bellinger, and Lux and the other team may hesitate pulling the trigger on certain options they have in their pens’)

But at worst he’s a relatively cheap two year add with massive upside. It wouldn’t be the first time an Ex-Pirate breaks out after leaving (Gerrit Cole, Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow to name a few recent ones). If he takes a leap or the DH becomes universal, the Dodgers may want to keep him around for longer.

There is no doubt in our eyes that Bell could reach super stardom in LA. We’re not guaranteeing he will. He could also suck and not even make the playoff roster. But considering the Dodgers can’t buy any lower on him, we think it’s finally worth the risk.

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Our Offer

  • Pirates Send: Josh Bell (1B), Phillip Evans (3B)
  • Dodgers Send: Austin Barnes, Mitch White (9th), DJ Peters (11th),

Why It Works

  • Pirates Get:
    • Payroll relief
    • A starting catcher
    • A relief or starting MLB ready pitching prospect
    • A starting OF? Top Prospect

The Pirates will move their second most expensive player in Josh Bell. Barnes would finally give the Pirates a credible catcher to work with their young pitchers. Mitch White would immediately slide onto their major league roster with the upside of joining their rotation. DJ Peters is MLB ready and has been itching for opportunity that just isn’t in LA with Betts, Pollock, and Bellinger all locked into roles.

But the biggest needs of the offseason for the Bucs were catching, outfield, prospects, and bullpen. The Dodgers can hit every one of those categories with these players.

  • Dodgers Get:
    • A right (and left) handed hitting infielder
    • Keibert Ruiz can play half of the games next year
    • An unproven 3rd baseman with possible upside
    • The Dodgers only take on about $4 million in overall payroll.

Bell would cement himself as the everyday first baseman giving the Dodgers one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. The Dodgers would be selling high on Austin Barnes. Phillip Evans is 28 and shown promise in his few chances. He’s slashing .290/.377/.366 in 93 major league at bats. He’s good insurance at a minimum price. They may even be able to afford Turner for a couple more years.

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Why It Doesn’t Work

The Dodgers really need a 3rd baseman and Bell isn’t exactly consistent at the plate throughout a season. Evans may blossom at the late age of 28, but he’s not a starter yet. The fact is that if the Dodgers front office sees Bell as too risky, there’s not a lot the Pirates can throw in to make this interesting. They may not be ready to hand over the reigns to Will Smith entirely either.

The Pirates still need to put butts in the seats and Bell is definitely an attraction. And $4 million may not be enough of a savings in payroll to make it worth it. They want prospects and depth more than anything else. So our proposal of young, but already MLB level players may not move the need enough for the Pittsburgh office.

It’s possible the Pirates try to throw in another big salary player like Gregory Polanco or Adam Fraizer. We assume they would kill for someone to absorb Polanco’s contract.

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Conclusion

Overall, the likelihood of Friedman and Co making an effort for Bell or anyone else on the Pirates is low. However, the two clubs have had plenty of contact in the past and must know each others’ systems well. But we guarantee that if the Pirates and Dodgers do make a trade this year, expect Bell to be at the center of it.

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2 thoughts on “Josh Bell To LA

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