SAN DIEGO (BVM) — While all eyes have been on Juan Soto’s future, the Padres also land an underrated bat in Josh Bell in the same deal.
According to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman, the Nationals have traded Bell and Soto to San Diego for Robert Hassell III, James Wood, CJ Abrams, Jarlin Susana and MacKenzie Gore.
McKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood
and Jarlin Susana plus Hosmer (3-$39M after this season) to Wash for Soto/Bell. That is probably the most substantive deal in deadline history
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 2, 2022
Eric Hosmer is using his no-trade clause and will not be heading to Washington in the deal, but it is expected to still go through regardless.
While all of the attention will be on Soto, Bell is not the typical throw-in. The former All-Star should make a big impact himself. Here is everything you need to know:
The impact of Juan Soto
The Padres are sitting at 12 games over .500 and just added one of the best hitters in baseball in Soto. He has a .849 OPS in 2022 and this is considered a down year for him. Going into October, the Padres will have a top of the lineup that features Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and now Juan Soto in some order.
But that is not only for this postseason, San Diego will get three pennant races worth of Soto at minimum if they cannot work out a long-term deal.
The Padres will now feature a top of the order that no one will want to face in the postseason.
Who is Josh Bell?
The 2011 second-round pick came up through the Pirates’ farm system, making his MLB debut in 2016. In 45 games that season, Bell hit .273 while slugging at a .406 clip. Early on, he looked like he could be a cornerstone piece in Pittsburgh.
The following year Bell continued to rake, finishing 2017 with an OPS of .800. He finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Cody Bellinger and Paul DeJong.
He continued to play well in 2018 before having his best season at the big league level in 2019. Bell hit .277 that year with an absurd slugging percentage of .569. He would make his only All-Star appearance that year.
In the shortened 2020 season, some soured on Bell as he hit .226 in 57 games, but he was just one of many examples of why that season was flukey around the league.
Pittsburgh sold low on Bell, moving him on Christmas Eve of 2020 to Washington in return for Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean.
He has been a tremendous addition to the Nationals ever since, slugging .476 in 2021 and .493 thus far in 2022.
Bell’s fit in San Diego
While Bell has manned first base this season for Washington and has outfield experience in his past, he is not the most versatile defender. According to Baseball Savant, Bell has an Outs Above Average (OAA) of zero in 2022, ranking him 14th amongst first baseman this season. But if you date back to when he got called up in 2016, he has a career OAA of -13, putting him No. 33 amongst qualified players for the position.
In San Diego, Bob Melvin will have many options at first base. San Diego has mainly used Luke Voit as the designated hitter and Hosmer at first base. And with Hosmer likely no longer in the plans of the Padres, Bell and Voit could split time there. One of Bell’s biggest assets is the lineup versatility he can create.
The 29-year-old is hitting .287 against righties and .311 against lefties in 2022, giving San Diego another complete bat. In a lineup against a right-hander, Melvin can take out the right-handed bat in Voit for Bell, allowing another lefty to get some at bats.
This was not a necessary piece for the Padres, but the addition of Bell alone, should give San Diego some much needed depth in their lineup.
This is the final year of Bell’s contract and he will be a free agent following the season.
What are the Nationals getting back?
In one of the biggest trades in MLB history, the Nationals received San Diego’s No. 1 prospect in outfielder Robert Hassell III, No. 3 prospect James Wood, promising rookie C.J. Abrams, MacKenzie Gore and RHP Jarlin Susana. According to MLB.com, Hassell III is the No. 21 prospect in all of baseball.
The 20-year-outfielder was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 draft and has excelled in the Padres system since. Hassell III brings a good bat with the hope to draw in more power in the near future. On the defensive side, the expectation is that he will be able to stay in center field and provide above-average defense manning the outfield.
Abrams recently graduated from prospect status and is still very much a coveted asset. Still 21 years old, the left-handed hitting shortstop is known for his speed. This makes any infield grounder a potential single and also allows him to play a good shortstop. Now that he will not be blocked by Tatis Jr. at that position, he should get every chance there in Washington.
MacKenzie Gore has lived up to his No. 3 pick from the 2017 draft in the 2022 season. The 23-year-old looks like a future ace, despite his 4.50 season ERA. Gore will likely anchor the Nationals rotation at some point in the near future.
The Nationals felt like this was a deal they had to make after Juan Soto turned down their contract extension. The Nationals received some very talented young players in return, but for arguably the best pure hitter in baseball that is still 23 years old, it still does not feel like enough.
For the Padres, they acquire one of the best talents in the game, and if they can lock him long-term, he will be wearing their hat when he heads to Cooperstown.