First Pitch: Is Josh Bell a Pittsburgh Pirate After the 2021 Trade Deadline?

To trade or not to trade Josh Bell.

I don’t think it’s a question the Pirates will be faced with this offseason.

They could obviously try to trade Bell. They could even decide to move him, likely at a very low value when considering the season he just had.

It is a question they might be faced with by the 2021 trade deadline.

Let’s paint a picture.

The Pirates aren’t the worst team in baseball at the deadline, but they’ve shown they aren’t contending this year.

Bell is under team control through the 2022 season. He’s back to 2019 production, where he’s a 2.5 fWAR first baseman.

The farm system is showing some promise, with the chance of a lot of prospect arrivals by the middle of 2022. Those include first base prospects Mason Martin and Will Craig, who combined with Colin Moran and Jose Osuna could give you anywhere from 1-2.5 WAR at first base in 2022.

Naturally, we’re still hoping for more out of Bell, even at the deadline in 2021. I’d dare to write a prediction about him showing multiple stretches that make you hope a 50-home run a year talent is ready to break out.

Bell has trade value enough to get you at least one prospect in the top 100, due to his production, potential, and the extra year of control.

There’s always going to be talk about how the Pirates could extend Bell, even if he is a Scott Boras client, but the reality is that this is going to be about as likely as Bell breaking out into an impact player in 2021. If Bell is at 2019 production or better, I see him hitting the open market. If he’s at 2020 production, and still banking on potential, then of course Boras would consider an extension.

The scenario above is Bell returns to 2019 production, the Pirates aren’t contending in 2021, but might have a shot at a Wild Card in 2022.

Do you trade Josh Bell at the deadline in 2021 and roll with the alternative options in the system in 2022?

Or do you hold onto Bell as part of the 2022 plan, hoping he takes that next leap as a hitter, with the fallback that you can deal him at the 2022 deadline if things aren’t working out (or if Mason Martin is ready)?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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