With Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias confidently proclaiming the club’s hope “to bring in one or two talented position players that’ll just boost the lineup,” hard-hitting Josh Bell presents as a realistic option to bolster the Orioles’ lineup. Like Jose Abreu, who the Orioles may also consider signing, Bell has sustained consistent success at the Major League level and would fill the first base/DH void created when the team traded Trey Mancini to the Astros this season.
Bell, 30, got off to a strong start this past season with the Washington Nationals, but cooled off after a trade to San Diego and finished the season batting .266 with 17 home runs, 71 RBIs, and a .784 OPS (on base plus slugging). The switch-hitting Bell spent the first five seasons of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, before being traded to the Washington Nationals on Christmas Eve 2020 in exchange for pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean.
Over his career, Bell has averaged a solid but unspectacular .262 average with 16 home runs, 58 RBIs, and an .810 OPS. His best offensive season came in 2019, when he hit .277 with 37 home runs, 116 RBI, and an OPS of .936. According to Wins Above Replacement, Bell’s most valuable season was in 2021, when he put up 3.1 WAR for the Nationals. Over his career, Bell has been a below-average defensive first baseman, and totaled -14.4 Defensive WAR (the second worst of his career) in 2022.
From a non-baseball perspective, Bell would be a fun signing for no reason other than he appears very likable. Bell is an avid reader and was a spokesperson for the District of Columbia’s summer reading program.
While a solid offensive player, Bell does not have the offensive pedigree of fellow free agents Jose Abreu, J.D. Martinez, Carlos Correa, or Justin Turner. Nevertheless, several teams with holes at first base and designated hitter, such as the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and his current team, the Padres, are expected to try adding Bell to their lineup. The general consensus is that some team will give Bell a four-year deal worth between $60 and $64 million total.
The Warehouse would be on high alert for baseball impact if 1B Josh Bell signed with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles need to add offense to a team that finished 20th out of 30 teams in the Major Leagues in OPS. With only Ryan Mountcastle on the depth chart for first base, and available at bats at designated hitter, Josh Bell represents a realistic and attainable option for adding power to the Orioles lineup. While 4 years and $60+ million may seem like a steep price to pay, there is no denying that Bell’s left-handed swing would be a great fit at Camden Yards, where left-handed hitters have enjoyed launching balls onto the flag court and Eutaw Street for 30 years. He is another interesting player to monitor as free agency is likely to pick up after the Thanksgiving holiday and during the Winter Meetings between December 4 and 7.