Pittsburgh Pirates Analysis: Grading a Josh Bell Trade Idea

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

It is that time of the year again, the Baseball Hot Stove is heating up.  Could the Pittsburgh Pirates move a key bat to their lineup?

Over the next week or so, there are bound to be plenty of rumors surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates.  There have already been reports about teams showing interest in some of their pitchers and, of course, Adam Frazier remains a logical trade candidate.  One player however represents a little bit harder of a decision.

Everyone knows what Josh Bell is capable of, a potential 40 home run bat.  However, no one knows if the Pittsburgh Pirates will see that Josh Bell again.  There is a sense that the first baseman could be traded as he has an established value and the team will still be able to acquire a significant return.  Others want the team to hold onto Bell and extend him, or at least have him bounce back even more to maximize a potential return.  This could mean hanging on to him, but this could also back fire.  With teams always looking at contractual control, each passing month takes away value.  This is not to mention if he comes out hitting sub .200 again.

With that being said, there are bound to be at least some rumors or speculation about a potential Bell deal.  Former Reds, Expos, and Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, who now is a contributor at The Athletic, put out a trade proposal for Bell.  Now this is pure speculation on Bowden’s part, as he put out an article looking at potential trades for each team during the virtual Winter Meetings:

"Trade first baseman Josh Bell to the Miami Marlins in exchange for first baseman Lewin Díaz, catcher Jorge Alfaro and left-handed pitcher Jake Eder."

First and foremost, the Miami Marlins would be a great team to deal with.  They got a taste of the playoffs last year and with an already young nucleus, they could start to strategically acquire players without costing the farm.  That is exactly what Bowden pitches here.

The only attractive piece in this offer is Lewin Diaz.  Diaz is rated as the Marlins sixth best prospect according to FanGraphs, but carries a 50 Future Value, meaning he projects as an average MLB starter.  However, Diaz made his big league debut last year and if the team moves Josh Bell, that would likely mean 2020 breakout Colin Moran would be the everyday first baseman.

Then there is the catching suggestion.  For some reason many believe the Pittsburgh Pirates need catching help.  This is still even after Jacob Stallings came out with a strong 2020 and was named a Gold Glove Finalist.  The Bucs also picked up catcher Michael Perez off of waivers from the Rays, while Perez may not have the power Alfaro has, he is much better behind the plate and projects to be a better all-around hitter.

This leaves the last piece, Jake Eder.  Normally, a player like Eder would be a fine addition to a blockbuster deal, especially as a final piece.  However, in this deal he does not move the needle much.  Eder is a hard throwing left-handed pitcher who was drafted in the fourth round out of Vanderbilt in 2020.  After being used as a reliever at Vanderbilt, there is belief that he could transition back into a starter.  Still, this is a lot of unpredictability about Eder’s future and his inclusion in this deal does not bring much in terms of overall trade value.

Josh Bell should not be traded.  This is a solid package of three players who carry value, Diaz alone carries about $25-30 million value.  Josh Bell has very little trade value right now because of his lack of production.  So while he may be an attractive center piece, there is no guarantee that a 50 FV player like Diaz would be made available for Bell.

If the Marlins were to consider making a run at Bell, the Pirates would likely need to look at other parts of the Marlins farm system.  The deal suggested above does not really fit what the current Front Office is trying to do.  Ben Cherington and staff have really focused their efforts on building the team to truly start competing in 2023 and 2024, based on the strength of the minor league system.

Getting value in Alfaro and Diaz does not make this team any better in 2021 or 2022.  In fact, Alfaro will be a free agent after the 2023 season so in the long run, he is at best a potential trade chip.  He also very well could be a nontender candidate as soon as next offseason, as he enters his second year of arbitration.  The same could be said for Diaz; why invest value in a player who will not get consistent playing time until, maybe 2022?  That is if Colin Moran keeps up his offensive development and the team were to sell high on him next offseason (free agent after 2023).

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In conclusion, this trade does nothing for the Bucs.  They have a catcher for now and the next few years in Stallings.  While Diaz is a 50 FV player, there is no clear place for Diaz on this team with Colin Moran’s presence.  As for Eder, he would be the only player to really fall into the wave of prospects that the Front Office is setting up.  However, he is basically a wild card in this deal, he could be a reliever, maybe a starter.  If that Bucs are aiming to get as much value in their 2023 and beyond prospect classes, Eder can not be the lone 2023 projected piece.  This is an easy no for the Pittsburgh Pirates.