Josh Bell leaves Padres, signs two-year deal with Guardians

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Josh Bell #24 of the San Diego Padres (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Josh Bell #24 of the San Diego Padres (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

When the San Diego Padres made a blockbuster move with the Washington Nationals to acquire Juan Soto and Josh Bell, A.J. Preller announced to the rest of the league that they were looking to contend for the next half-decade. Soto is a viable long-term piece, but Bell won’t come along for the ride.

While both Bell and Soto struggled out of the gate with the Padres, the latter eventually turned things around and became arguably San Diego’s most impactful postseason bat thanks to his combination of plate discipline and power. Bell, meanwhile, was stuck in neutral.

Despite his issues as a Padre, bringing him back would have made sense for all parties. Bell would get a nice short-term deal that compensates him well, and San Diego has a starting first baseman. In a stunning move, an AL Central team has completely ruined that plan.

Bell has agreed to a two-year, $33 million contract with the Cleveland Guardians. While he did struggle during the end of his tenure with the Padres, the fact that a young corner infielder with power didn’t have a huge market is a bit surprising. For San Diego, their hole at first base just got even larger.

The San Diego Padres lost Josh Bell to the Cleveland Guardians.

Bell hit just .192 with three home runs in the last two months of the season with San Diego, which likely ate into his value as a free agent. However, Bell’s history shows that he is consistently a high-contact hitter with the power to challenge for 30 home runs every year.

In his last two full seasons prior to 2022, Bell hit 37 home runs with 116 RBI during an All-Star season with the Pirates in 2019 and smacked 27 dingers with the Nationals in 2021. Before he got traded to San Diego, the Silver Slugger was hitting .301 with Washington. $16.5 million AAV for that kind of power looks like a steal.

The Padres have now lost their top first base option from last year in Bell while watching Jose Abreu sign with the Astros in the early days of free agency. While getting Trea Turner would have been nice, Preller’s next move should be trying to find a veteran who can replace Bell’s pop in the heart of the order.

The Padres need to address their first base hole quickly, as they just lost a young switch-hitter who is not too far removed from an All-Star season. Be it with Jake Cronenworth or a new free agent signing, something needs to get done in San Diego.