Bell, 28, is coming off a subpar season in 2020, but that's easily dismissed since it was an abbreviated 60-game season brought on by a global pandemic. In 2019, the switch-hitting Bell enjoyed a major breakout season, as he put up an OPS+ of 142 with 37 home runs and 37 doubles in 143 games for the Pirates and made the All-Star team. For his career, Bell owns a slash line of .261/.349/.466, and he's averaged 25 home runs per 162 games played across parts of five big league seasons. Bell is second-year arbitration eligible in 2021, and he's eligible for free agency following the 2022 season.
The Nats last season got merely adequate production from first base, primarily with a mix of Eric Thames and Asdrubal Cabrera. Bell figures to provide an upgrade, and he also gives the Nats a bat-first option in the event that the universal DH remains in place for next season.
As for the Pirates, they'll receive two right-handed pitchers, Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean, in exchange for Bell. While noting that the Nationals don't have a particularly strong farm system right now, our own R.J. Anderson ranked Crowe, 26, as the Nats' No. 2 prospect and gave Yean, 19, a nod in "others to know." Here's his write-up of Crowe:
"Crowe reached the majors last season, making three uninspiring starts over the campaign's final weeks. He should receive an opportunity to amend those missteps in 2021. He has four average or better offerings, including a low-90s fastball (one that didn't miss many bats during his big-league cameo) and a slider that accounted for more than half his pitches."
"Yean is a solid bet to crack the top five next year. He's an athletic righty with the makings of a starter's arsenal. He won't turn 20 until June, either, meaning he has ample time for seasoning."
Here's what Pirates GM Ben Cherington said about the return for Bell in a statement released by the club:
"Wil Crowe commands a solid fastball and several good secondary pitches. He brings a strong reputation and work ethic, and has a chance to compete for Major League innings in 2021. Eddy Yean is a Dominican League prospect who was one of the better young pitchers in the short season in 2019. He has a mid-90's fastball to go along with a promising slider and changeup. Yean will join a growing group of promising starting pitching prospects within our minor league system."
More broadly, the trade reinforces the notion that the Pirates aren't close to contending and investing in payroll. For the Nats, it signals they're aiming to bounce back from a disappointing 2020 and shoot for a second World Series title in three years with the core of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Juan Soto still in place.