Josh Bell
Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A few weeks ago general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez spoke with reporters and gave insight into how the Nationals are approaching this winter of transactions. The Nats addressed that bat and first base all in one trade in what has been a pretty quiet offseason so far. On Christmas Eve, Santa delivered an early gift to Nats fans with slugging first baseman Josh Bell.

Rizzo said “Our plans going forward are to get the best bat we can. The perfect fit would be at first base or one of the corner outfielders. There was a method to Davey’s madness last year when he put [Juan] Soto into right field for the last couple of games of the season to see how he would adhere to that. … I think we’re versatile in the fact that it doesn’t have to be strictly a right fielder or strictly a left fielder. But a corner outfielder that complements the lineup, or a first baseman, would be the smoothest transition, because those are positions of need. But with that said, you could get creative and get a bat in all sorts of different ways. And with a little maneuvering, we’d feel comfortable doing it in all sorts of different creative ways.”

The Washington Nationals acquired the 28-year-old Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon in exchange for a pair of minor league prospects, right-handed pitchers Wil 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. He was one of the best hitters in baseball. Bell goes from a team in the midst of a long-term rebuild to one just 14 months removed from a World Series title. Bell is under contractual control through at least the 2022 season.

More importantly, Josh Bell adds a bat behind Juan Soto. Something the Nats were missing in 2020. The Nationals fell to 26-34 and last in the NL East in 2020, but Rizzo said this month he expects Washington to have the budget to put a championship-caliber club together. Acquiring Josh Bell is the first step in making this a reality.

Trading for Bell did not require top prospects or a large amount of cash. The 28-year-old is right within the first base budget lines. Bringing him in eliminated the dual need of a full-time first baseman and additional home runs in the lineup. Remaining in the hunt for more power and the “middle-of-the-order” bat Rizzo said was the offseason’s top priority.

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