Bell eager to join forces with J-Ram, pack lineup punch

December 12th, 2022

CLEVELAND –  is already envisioning a lineup that has his name beside José Ramírez.

“It’s tough to not get that itch, get that want to play with José Ramírez,” Bell said.

Bell met with local media on Monday afternoon, hours after his two-year contract was made official by the Guardians. Sources have told that the deal is worth $33 million and includes and opt out after the 2023 season. Now, the focus can turn to next year.

There are a lot of obvious factors as to why this offense is already trending in the right direction with the addition of Bell. He’s had a track record of finding power in the Majors, hitting 37 homers in 2019 and 27 in ’20. He’s a switch-hitter with similar numbers against righties and lefties. He’s known to be a tremendous teammate and will be a perfect pickup for a young team looking for leadership.

But the biggest upside is that if everything goes to script, Bell's presence could make Ramírez even better, too.

The hope in 2022 was that Franmil Reyes would be able to unleash his power and finally have his big, consistent season after experiencing so many hot and cold stretches over the past few years with Cleveland. Instead, Reyes hit just .213 with a mere .603 OPS (73 OPS+) and nine homers in 70 games with the Guardians before he was designated for assignment. That left Ramírez, who hit third just ahead of Reyes in the lineup, with no protection behind him.

Ramírez ranked 24th in the Majors when it came to the lowest number of in-zone pitches he saw. The 23 guys ahead of him were a mix of players who struggled with plate discipline and those who had very little protection in the lineup. Ramírez’s case was clearly the lack of threat around him. As the season went on, Ramírez struggled more (a thumb injury that he sustained in mid-June certainly didn’t help), but imagining what more he can do with a possible threat in Bell in the cleanup spot behind him has to be fun for this organization.

“If we’re both over 100 [RBIs], I think we’ll be in a good place,” Bell said.

It's a goal that’s more than doable. Ramírez has turned in back-to-back seasons with at least 100 runs knocked in. Bell did so in 2019 -- a season he’s working hard to replicate.

The hesitation with Bell is his rocky second half in San Diego, after he was traded with Juan Soto from Washington at last year’s Trade Deadline. Bell proved what he could be in 2019 with the Pirates, hitting .277 with a .936 OPS, 37 homers, three triples, 37 doubles and 116 RBIs. But so many of those results occurred in the first half of the season, including 27 of the long balls.

His production slipped in the second half, as he noted to’s Sarah Langs and Jessica Camerato that he got caught up in hitting home runs. He was confident that this year's hot start was going to last all season based on what he'd learned in the past and his dramatically improved strikeout rate. Instead, Bell's line drives turned into ground balls and his .301 average with the Nationals became a .192 average with the Padres during the regular season.

“I think next year, the sky's the limit for a lot of lefties with the shift going away,” Bell said. “You’ll get rewarded for hard contact to the pull side a little bit more, so I won't shy away from that contact as much as I have in the past.”

Bell’s postseason helped his confidence going into the winter. He homered in his first playoff game and doubled in his last before the Padres were knocked out by the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.

“It helped me to continue to have fuel and fire going into the offseason,” Bell said. “Didn’t want to have the second half that I did, but I think it’s part of my story and the reason why I’ve worked my tail off for the first couple months of the offseason, so I’m happy for it.”

With a change of atmosphere, some rule changes and having Ramírez in front of him, Bell is ready to have the complete offensive season he’s been working for in 2023.

“When I look back at the end of next season,” Bell said, “I know I’ll be proud.”