Pirates trade slugger Josh Bell to Nationals
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Josh Bell went out of his way to be a Pittsburgh pirate. He understood when the club was retooled following the departure of stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole that he would de facto be the face of the franchise.
It's a responsibility that Bell ran up to. He was very involved in the community. He developed a bond with the family of the first base player in the Hall of Fame, Willie "Pops" Stargell. He went on to become an all-star in 2019 and looked just like the pirates were able to rebuild him.
And now he's gone.
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The pirates sent the 28-year-old bell to Washington on Thursday, giving the Nationals the bat's general manager Mike Rizzo, saying this was an off-season priority for NL East's perennial competitors.
Washington sent pitching prospects Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean to Pittsburgh for Bell, a move that Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington deemed necessary to give Pittsburgh the organizational depth it needs to build something successful later.
"Building this winning team, and getting to this winning team, sometimes takes some tough decisions. This is one of them," said Cherington.
Bell was an All-Star in 2019 after a hot first half in which he hit .302 with 27 home runs and 84 RBIs. This shape was difficult to pin down last year. Bell hit .233 home runs in an injury-reduced second half of 2019 with 10 home runs and fought a career low of .226 in 57 games for the Pirates in 2020. Pittsburgh finished 19-41, the majors' worst record.
Bell believed he could be the cornerstone for Pittsburgh when the pirates under Cherington and manager Derek Shelton wanted to retool, both of whom came aboard after the team's catastrophic collapse in the second half in 2019 that resulted in a major reorganization led.
Instead, Bell switches to Cole, McCutchen, and outfielder Starling Marte as players who were sent elsewhere after Pittsburgh flipped them for either less expensive major leaguers or for well-respected prospects who they hope can make an impact later .
Bell is transitioning from a team in the middle of a long-term transformation to a team just 14 months away from a World Series title. The Nationals fell to 26-34, and most recently in 2020 in NL East, but Rizzo said this month he expects Washington to have the budget to put together a championship-caliber club. Bell, which raised a pro-rata amount of $ 1,777,778 out of a planned $ 4.8 million in 2020, is under contractual control until at least the 2022 season. He is one of three eligible players for the Nationals, along with outfielder Juan Soto and shortstop Trea Turner.
26-year-old Crowe is one of Washington's top pitching candidates. He took a 2-0 lead with an ERA of 11.88 in three starts for the Nationals in 2020. Cherington said there is a chance Crowe could make an impact at the big league level in 2021.
Yean, 19, signed with Washington in 2017 as an undeveloped free agent. He set a 3-5 record with 75 spikes while playing in the underage miners.
Bell's exit takes Pittsburgh's second-highest salary after Gregory Polanco's planned $ 11.6 million. Cherington noted, however, that the pirates are unlikely to be done.
"To build a successful team and keep it going in Pittsburgh, we need to keep our focus on talent accumulation and then talent development, and that's coming from all kinds of directions," said Cherington. "But trade is one of them, and this is the time of year these talks take place, so we will continue them."
Cherington awaits a reaction from a fan base that has grown used to seeing their most famous players leave town. However, it was unlikely that the Pirates would sign Bell into a long-term contract. Combine that probability with the amount of time the club deems necessary to replicate the success that teams with modest budgets like Tampa Bay and Oakland have achieved. This meant that breaking up with Bell - tough as it was - was the right call.
"I think what pirate fans want is a winning team more than they want for a single player, even someone who's a really good guy and a good player," said Cherington. "When we think about it, that's how we see it."
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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