A Full Season Later, How Do Cherington's Offseason Trades Look Now? - Part 2


Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The Pirates made three high profile trades last offseason.  They sent starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres, starting pitcher Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees, and first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals.  

At the time, it was a clear message to Pirate fans.  Nobody is safe in this rebuild if they can be used to acquire young and talented prospects.  Those being dealt were also all players who would be unrestricted free agents by 2023, the year when most of these shiny new prospects are supposed to either be debuting or well established in the MLB.  If you are not protected past that year, you are not valuable to this organization.

However, instead of looking at these trades as salary dumps and purely means to clean house, the trades have actually started to look pretty great for the Pirates.  Let's grade these trades one-by-one after another season's worth of data.  This is the second of a three-part series focused on the trading of Josh Bell.

Josh Bell to the Nationals – C

The Josh Bell trade to the Nationals is starting to look as if the Pirates may have gotten the worse end of this deal.  In exchange for Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, the Nationals sent right-handed pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean to Pittsburgh.  I think in regards to the data we have from the 2021 season, this trade appears much worse than the Jameson Taillon trade we outlined in Part 1. 

Bell was not coming off of injury nor had he had a terrible injury history like Taillon did going into last offseason.  In fact, Bell showed, at times, he could be the best hitter in the entire league.  He certainly lacked consistency, but Bell had a first half in 2019 like the Pirates haven’t seen in many years.  He then had a very down shortened 2020 season, but as I have said in the past, I am throwing out that season for any analysis purposes.

Bell still lacked consistency with the Nationals in 2021, but put up solid power numbers.  He hit 27 homeruns and 88 RBI, which would have ranked him first and second respectively on the Pirates 2021 roster.  In fact, the only other Pirates to even reach double digit homeruns , other than Bryan Reynolds - the Pirates stat leader in everything, were Gregory Polanco and Colin Moran.  The Pirates certainly could have used the power this season and potentially the next several.  However, at 29 years old, and the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023, the time had come to receive something in return for Bell.

However, the ‘something in return’ also did not produce as well in 2021 as those received in theTaillon trade.

Wil Crowe

Wil Crowe has not performed very well in the big leagues.  And while it is a small sample size, it is enough experience now to not consider Crowe a “prospect” anymore.  Also, because this season was his first real big league experience, pitching just 8.1 innings for the Nationals in 2020, people may still see him as a youngster developing into himself.  Unfortunately, Crowe will enter the 2022 season at the veteran age of 27.  The time for development is nearly over.

Crowe had an up and down 2021 season.  He pitched well in his first start with the Pirates, giving up just one earned run in four innings.  He would then take the Mitch Keller like path of having one good start, followed by one bad start, and so on. 

This all came to a head on June 1st when Crowe gave up eight earned runs to the Kansas City Royals.  However, in classic Crowe fashion, he then cashed in five decent starts out of his next seven, with a six inning shutout performance on July 30th against the Philadelphia Phillies.  His final start of the season was six innings, no runs and nine strikeouts on October 1st against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. 

However, toss in several other really bad starts he had and it all culminated into a ho-hum 4-8 season with a 5.48 ERA and only three Quality Starts in 25 games started.  He also had much too high of a WHIP at 1.57 to be effective.  

A season like Crowe had in 2021 would not earn him a spot on most team’s 2022 rotations, however I do expect him to appear in the Pirates' rotation come April.  The only positive is that Crowe got the opportunity to cut his teeth in a season that did not much matter for the Pirates whether they won or lost in his appearances.  This season was about getting the young guys big league experience and Crowe certainly got that.

Eddy Yean

Eddy Yean is similar to Maikol Escotto from the Taillon article.  He is a prospect and is way too young at age 20 to truly evaluate.  He has plenty of time to grow into his body.  However, we did get to see some of his work this season, and overall, it was not great.

Yean started eight games among his twenty-two total appearances.  He had a 5.27 ERA and a below average 1.43 WHIP.  He walked far too many batters (39 in 66.2 innings) and decreased his career Strikeout to Walk ratio.

However, as I said, Yean is still very young.  He also is rated as the Pirates 30th prospect, just scraping into that coveted top 30 list.  He also could still very much be a part of the Pirates rotation for the foreseeable future if he develops and performs better.

Concluding Thoughts

Because Josh Bell performed well in 2021 and both Crowe and Yean did not, this trade gets a lower grade.  However, Bell did potentially peak in 2019 and is not getting any younger.  Also, while the Pirates could use Bell's power now and down the road, him being at 1st base may have log jammed the third base position and taken away very valuable major league at-bats from Ke’Bryan Hayes.  Those factors are why this trade is not graded even harsher, but at this point it looks like the Pirates received the worse end of the deal.