Washington’s Nationals acquired Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Christmas Eve for a couple of pitchers, in Wil Crowe and prospect Eddy Yean, who Bucs’ GM Ben Cherington described as “a couple of studs” when he phoned Bell to inform the 28-year-old, 2011 2nd round pick that he’d been dealt.
“Wil Crowe was a high draft choice for us and a guy that we had high expectations for,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters of the Nationals’ 2017 2nd round pick when he and Bell spoke with reporters on a Zoom call this past weekend.
“[Crowe’s] 2020 — with the stop and go of Spring Training,” Rizzo said, “... he was a guy that got an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues.
“We felt that he was a back of the rotation starting pitcher. A consistent pitcher with multiple pitches. And Eddy Yean is another terrific sign by our international scouting department. Big arm. Big upside. A couple years away.
“If he’s healthy, he’ll impact the major league roster, but just years away with a big upside.”
Crowe, 26, was ranked 3rd overall on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Nationals’ top prospects this winter, while Yean, 19, was ranked 6th.
Rizzo told reporters in a December 15th Zoom call that the club was in the market for a big bat either at first base or in a corner outfield spot. Nine days later, the 2-for-1 trade for Bell, the switch-hitting infielder, allowed the GM and President of Baseball Ops in D.C. to check off another item on the organization’s offseason wish list.
Asked how the deal came about, Rizzo said, “... it went like most trades happen with the Nationals. We contact another team that we feel that we see a fit for, positionally, and performance-wise and pedigree and character, Josh fit what we were looking for and it starts with an exploratory phone call with the Pirates, then names are exchanged, and it takes a couple weeks of a process.
“We felt that on [December] 23rd we were getting close, and we finally got the deal done on the 24th. And then medicals and the protocols have to go in place before it’s officially entered into the system and the trade is official.
“The trade is official, so we’re happy — always a pleasure working with Ben [Cherington] and his people over there. He’s a pro. Been through it many, many times, so it’s always a pleasure dealing with guys who are honest and forthright and not a lot of wasted time I’ll put it that way was included in a deal such as this.”
Bell learned he’d been dealt as he prepared to work out in his home town of Irving, TX.
“It’s definitely different, especially knowing that the team in places — the team is very ready to go,” he said, after finishing no higher than third place in the NL Central in his five seasons in the big leagues with the Bucs.
“It definitely seems like a machine,” he said of the Nationals’ organization, “so just happy to be one of the turning parts of it.”
“But in regards to this team right now, very ready to win, very hungry for wins, very hungry for the division, so I’m excited to feel that hunger with the guys once the season starts.”
As he usually does, Rizzo said he thought the trade was beneficial for both teams, and he’s happy with the return that fits the Nationals’ needs, and gives the Pirates promising young arms.
“We’re always a team that we like to make good baseball trades,” Rizzo said. “You’ve got to give to get, and you’re talking about an MVP finalist back in 2019, with two years of control, at least, for the organization, so you’re going to have to give up players for that.
“We’ve never been afraid to give up good players to get good players, and we’re extremely happy with the acquisition of Josh, he fulfills a lot of the things that we were looking to do in the offseason and again — I can’t overemphasize — this is the type of person we want in Washington, D.C. in that clubhouse and between the lines.”