Nationals acquire first baseman Josh Bell in trade with Pirates


The Nationals are acquiring first baseman Josh Bell in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Washington. The team announced the deal Thursday afternoon.

Minor-league pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean are going to Pittsburgh for Bell.

Bell, 27, had a breakout year in 2019 when he hit 37 home runs for Pittsburgh, leading to a 142 OPS-plus. It was by far Bell’s best season since entering the league in 2016 as a 23-year-old for the Pirates after being selected in the second round in 2011.

Bell strikes out often and is a subpar defender at first base. He will, however, add some power to a Nationals lineup desperate for a boost. Mike Rizzo said last week the Nationals were in search of a “middle-of-the-order bat” and it could come at first base or corner outfield. Bell is more of a fifth or sixth hitter than a cleanup or No. 3 hitter. Which means the Nationals are going to look for more power, presumably in the corner outfield market and possibly at third base.

This is a low-cost option. Bell is arbitration-eligible this year and next, then becomes a free agent in 2023. His projected salary for next season is $6 million.

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Crowe departs as one of the prospects in a middling minor-league group. Recent draft picks Cade Cavalli, Seth Romero and Jackson Rutledge made Crowe expendable. Crowe made his major-league debut in 2020, went on to start three games and finished with a 11.88 ERA.


Yean is a 19-year-old right-hander who pitched in Rookie ball in 2019.