The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to tear things down and rebuild. Trading Josh Bell was the first step of that process.
On December 24th, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals for two minor league pitching prospects in Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean. Prior to the trade, Crowe was ranked as the 3rd best prospect in the Nationals system while Yean was ranked 8th.
For the Nationals, it fills a need as it gives them a power hitter they can insert in the middle of their lineup while inserting someone that is better than the other options they had.
In previous seasons, longtime franchise player Ryan Zimmerman was the Nationals primary first baseman but he opted out of the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Nationals used a combination of Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick at first in which the former is a free agent and the latter announced his retirement.
While Bell struggled in 2020 to a .226/.305/.364 slash line, over a full season in 2019, he mashed 37 home runs with 116 RBI and slashing .277/.367/.569. He will provide the Nationals an upgrade as they hope to compete in a competitive NL East.
With a less than ideal farm system for a team that’s looking to rebuild, the Pirates are looking to get what they can get for the not so great pieces they have on their major league roster.
Bell was arguably their best trade chip and the Pirates got a dismal return. In Crowe’s minor league career, he holds a 4.03 ERA and when he was called to the big leagues this past season, he gave up 11 earned runs in 8.1 innings. The Nationals apparently weren’t high on his future and were more than willing to deal him.
Crowe could start the 2021 season in the majors but it’s possible the Pirates start him off in the minors since he struggled in his brief major league stint. Regardless, he’s expected to be apart of the Pirates future plans but they shouldn’t expect much from him. He’s not one too miss bats and doesn’t necessarily have the greatest control although he’s good at limiting the long ball. He’s currently ranked as the Pirates’ 17th best prospect among their top 30.
In Yean, the Pirates see him as a long-term piece as he’s only 19 and hasn’t reached past low A. He’s only appeared in 21 minor league games posting a 4.70 ERA but there’s lots of time for him to develop into something as he has a fastball that can hit as high as 97 MPH. He’s ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Pirates farm system.
Bell is under control for this season and next before he becomes a free agent. For two years of control, the Pirates could have gotten more for their slugger in regards to quantity and quality. The Nationals have one of the weaker farm systems in the league and have deemed their top two prospects, Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli off limits.
With not many teams in need of a first baseman, if that was the best offer the Pirates got for Bell, they should have held onto him in hopes that he would increase his value with his play during the upcoming season.
So far, the Pittsburgh Pirates rebuild is not off to a great start.