Much of the attention during the Winter Meetings went to names like Aaron Judge and Trea Turner. A move that went a bit under the radar was one made by the Cleveland Guardians. Cleveland inked 1B/DH Josh Bell to a two-year deal, in a move that should provide some balance for a team ready to take another step forward in 2023.
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A Look at Bell
Prior to the Trade Deadline, it seemed like Josh Bell was poised for a large contract in free agency. The former Padre had a solid 2022 season overall, as Bell produced 49 extra base hits. The 30-year old slashed .266/.362/.462 last season, en route to the slugger’s first Silver Slugger award. However, most of his damage came with the Washington Nationals.
Bell had 41 extra base hits, including 14 home runs, over the first baseman’s initial 103 games of the regular season. Those numbers, coupled with a keen eye at the plate, helped the Texas native produce the 11th best OPS (.877) among all MLB hitters (min. 400 PA) up until August 2. After the trade that sent him and Juan Soto to the Padres, Bell’s numbers collapsed. Despite showing good discipline at the plate, Bell batted just .192 and had only eight extra base hits over 213 plate appearances with the Padres. The 30-year old’s OPS of .587 with the Friars was among the bottom 15 of all players (min. 75 PA) after the deadline.
Bell’s exit velocity and fly ball rates were down in 2022, as compared to his career averages. In contrast, the first baseman’s GB% and Weak% rates were up from prior seasons. Much of that, though, can be attributed to struggled with the Padres. When clicking, Bell is a talented power hitter with an explosive swing. Not to mention, the former Pirate and National has been among one of the league’s most disciplined hitters since his debut in 2016.
A Look at the Guardians
2022 was a successful season for the Guardians, as Cleveland’s re-tool upon trading Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber has already yielded results. The Guardians rode a strong pitching staff, alongside a lineup that included four Gold Glove winners and one of the game’s best all-around hitters in Jose Ramirez, to the MLB Playoffs. Cleveland was the youngest team in MLB last season, and that group is poised to improve come 2023.
The Guardians were excellent in putting the ball in play last season, finishing first in team Zone and Chase Contact% rates. Additionally, Cleveland had the best Whiff% (21%) rate in MLB in 2022, thanks to a team filled with talented contact hitters. However, one issue that Cleveland did have last season was in the power department. While the Guardians did finish in the middle of the pack in both SLG (.383) and wOBA (.306), Cleveland sported the lowest team averages in both Hard Hit% (33.1%) and Average Exit Velocity (87.2 MPH).
Cleveland has a number of solid hitters that can get on base, but driving those individuals in is a different story. The Guardians had just two hitters with 20 or more home runs (Ramirez and Josh Naylor) in 2022. Adding an individual who has had many as 37 home runs in a season should not only provide support for the Guardians, but also serve as a rebound for a slugger that latched on to a upstart team.