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.