The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Josh Bell when he was coming off the worst season of his career, technically. It was the shortened 2020 campaign where he batted for a .228/.305/.364 line, .286 wOBA, and 77 wRC+, though this was only through 223 plate appearances. Bell had been an All-Star the previous year, but it wasn’t without his struggles. His wRC+ fell from 154 in the first half to 101 in the second half. Every two months was essentially a new batter for Bell. Throughout all of this, he had unplayable defense at first base. First base is usually a position where you can get away with a poor defender, but Bell was noticeably bad.
On Christmas Eve the Pirates jettisoned Josh to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe. Bell rebounded from a dismal 2020 camping to hit .261/.347/.476 with a .352 wOBA and 118 wRC+. He was actually playable at first base with just -1 DRS, -3.2 UZR.150, and +3 outs above average. Despite the solid overall production, Bell still fell shy of 2.0 fWAR at 1.4.
Bell went into the 2022 campaign with the Nationals as their first baseman. After signing Nelson Cruz this offseason, the Nats can’t hide his first base defense behind the designated hitter. Although his 2019 is looking more like an outlier given the super-juiced ball of that year, as well as his 2020 because of the small sample size, Bell still looks like a solid 110-115 wRC+ batter. Bell will be one of the handful of starting-caliber first basemen on the free agent market when the season comes to a close.