Josh Bell, Guardians agree to 2-year deal

December 12th, 2022

The Guardians may not have found their catcher just yet, but their offense just got stronger.

First baseman Josh Bell signed a two-year deal with the Guardians, the team announced on Monday afternoon. Terms of the deal were not announced, but a source told it's worth $33 million, and it also includes an opt-out clause after 2023.

One of the Guardians’ top priorities heading into the winter was to bring some much-needed pop to the lineup. Across seven seasons in the big leagues, the 30-year-old Bell has amassed 130 homers and a .262/.351/.459 career slash line. His best season came with Pittsburgh in 2019, when he reached his lone All-Star Game, but Bell was excellent with Washington in ‘21 and '22 as well.

At the 2022 Deadline, Bell was traded to the Padres as part of the Juan Soto deal. He struggled down the stretch, but he turned in some of San Diego's biggest hits in the postseason -- in his first trip to the playoffs, no less.

The biggest benefit for the Guardians with adding Bell is that he can be a solid option to platoon with at first base or can man the position when Naylor is in right field, which the team is planning for him to do again in 2023.

On days that Naylor is at first, Bell can slide into the DH spot. A switch-hitter, Bell brings serious thump from both sides of the plate. Throughout his career, he skewed slightly better from the left side, but in '22, those splits reversed and he was better as a righty. Regardless of which side Bell hits from, he brings immense power, having authored a trio of 25-plus homer seasons, including 37 taters in 2019 -- and right-handed bats are a need for Cleveland.

Naylor had success against right-handers, hitting .283 with an .856 OPS and 19 homers in 115 games in 2022, but he struggled mightily against lefties. He owned a mere .173 average with a .512 OPS and just one homer in 68 games. Now Cleveland can have an answer when southpaws toe the rubber.

Defensively, Bell's glovework has improved significantly from when he made his big league breakthrough in 2016. He struggled mightily at first base with the Pirates, but he has been largely neutral on defense over the past couple seasons (though he mostly served as a DH in San Diego).

Bell, always active in the community, is also a two-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee, once with the Pirates in 2020 and again with the Nationals in '22. Bell was traded from Pittsburgh to Washington following the ’20 season in the deal that sent reliever Wil Crowe to the Pirates.

A reliable presence in the lineup, Bell has never missed more than 20 games in a full season, aside from his 2016 rookie year in Pittsburgh. That said, Bell has a tendency to be streaky. It can be all or nothing with Bell for long stretches -- with his 2022 campaign as the perfect example.

But when Bell is in a groove at the plate he blends elite power with strong plate discipline, making him one of the most fearsome switch-hitters in all of baseball, a true matchup nightmare.