Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

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Merry Xmas! The Nats got a Bell

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Bell joins his former Pittsburgh teammate Harrison with the Nationals. Photo via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Not unlike the little boy in The Polar Express, the Nats got a Bell for Christmas.

Let me just start out by saying, I love this move. Might as well get it on record.

The Nats made their first trade in nearly a year, and their first one with Pittsburgh in four years, by acquiring Josh Bell in exchange for two pitching prospects in Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean.

Bell is a middle-of-the-order stud, crushing the NL in 2019 to the tune of a 142 OPS+ and 135 wRC+. He crushed 37 homers playing in Pittsburgh’s pitcher’s park and despite missing a few weeks with injury. He struggled in 2020, so Pittsburgh is selling a bit low, but its also a typical move from the often-tanking franchise. Bell is arb-eligible, a Scott Boras client and probably is only a 2-year player here, but he fits an immediate and urgent need on this team.

Now for a bit on the players heading the other way. Crowe has been one of our top pitching prospects for several seasons, grinding his way up the chain and debuting in 2020. However (and yes this is small sample size and what not but it is still warranted), his MLB time did not inspire confidence. His fastball was just 92mph, his off-speed stuff in the low to mid 80s, and he got tattooed in his 8 innings pitched (14 hits, 5 homers, 8 walks). It was enough to cause Baseball America to drop him from 4th in their pre-2020 handbook to 10th in the post-season wake of his performance. The scouting reports say he sits 91-93 and touches 95; well, if there was ever a time for him to touch it, it would have been in his MLB debut. I hate to throw shine on a guy, but a life-time starter who can’t cut it in the low 90s and who projected as a 5th starter at best is not exactly a guarantee to be successful in relief either, not in an era where everybody throws mid 90s out of the pen. I think this was an indication that Crowe dropped so far down our starting pitcher depth chart that he became completely expendable.

Meanwhile, the marquee name heading the other way likely is Yean, a 2017 IFA who never appeared on a single prospect list until the post 2019 season, when he started getting top 10 buzz. MLBPipeline.com was the high man on him after 2020, having him all the way up to #6 in the system. He’ll be a solid starter prospect for Pittsburgh’s low-A team this year and might turn into a star for them. But, in terms of near-term needs, Yean is at least 3 years away and the team has 4 or 5 college aged studs who rank higher than him and who are closer to the majors, so he’s a years-away lottery ticket. Unlike other times when we’ve traded away young pitchers (Jesus Luzardo) I’m a-ok with this move.

Great move; we got a player we really wanted, didn’t break the bank in terms of FA signing, and the prospects we sent the other way were prospects we could afford to part with.

Written by Todd Boss

December 24th, 2020 at 3:22 pm