Pirates trade slugger Josh Bell to Nationals

David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH — Josh Bell is heading to the Washington Nationals.

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded the slugging first baseman to Washington on Thursday for pitching prospects Will Crowe and Eddy Yean.

The 28-year-old Bell was an All-Star in 2019 following a torrid first half in which he hit .302 with 27 home runs and 84 RBIs. That form has been elusive over the last year-plus. Bell hit .233 with 10 home runs during an injury-shortened second half of 2019 and hit just eight homers while batting a career-low .233 in 57 games for the Pirates in 2020. Pittsburgh finished 19-41, the worst record in the majors.

Bell believed he could be the cornerstone for Pittsburgh as the Pirates looked to retool under general manager Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton, both of whom came aboard following the team’s disastrous second-half collapse in 2019 that led to a top-to-bottom revamp in the organization.

Instead, Bell will join the Nationals, just 14 months removed from a World Series title. He is under contractual control through at least the 2022 season. His departure also removes the second-highest salary on the team from the books. Bell, who was scheduled to make $4.8 million in 2020 before taking a fraction of that due to the truncated season, figured to receive at least a minor bump in arbitration this time around.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo had said adding a middle-of-the-order bat was his top offseason priority.

The 26-year-old Crowe is one of Washington’s top pitching prospects. He went 0-2 with an 11.88 ERA in three starts for the Nationals in 2020.

Yean, 19, signed with Washington as a non-drafted free agent in 2020. He has posted a 3-5 record with 75 strikeouts while playing in the low minors.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

astros general manager
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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”