MLB Trade Rumors: 'Astros Have Been Extremely Aggressive'; Linked to Nats' Josh Bell

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 26, 2022

AP Photo/Nick Wass

The Houston Astros have reportedly been "extremely aggressive" leading up to the 2022 MLB trade deadline on Aug. 2.

ESPN's Jeff Passan said Tuesday that Washington Nationals first baseman Josh Bell, who "will be traded" and could be among the first high-profile names on the move, is a target that "makes a lot of sense" for the AL West leaders.

The Astros don't have many weaknesses. They own MLB's third-best record at 64-33, behind only the New York Yankees (66-31) and Los Angeles Dodgers (64-31), thanks to an offense that ranks tied for fifth in OPS (.743) and a pitching staff that ranks second in ERA (3.03).

First base is one of the few areas of need. Yuli Gurriel, who hit .319 with 15 home runs last season, hasn't been able to match that performance so far in 2022. His .671 OPS and -0.2 WAR both rank last among qualified players at the position, per FanGraphs.

Bell could bring some pop back to that spot in the lineup for Houston. He's mashed 40 homers in 241 games since joining the Nats ahead of the 2021 campaign, and he's compiled an .879 OPS through 97 outings so far this season.

The 29-year-old Texas native can become a free agent this winter, which is why he's a virtual lock to get moved as Washington heads toward a rebuild with a league-worst 33-65 record.

In early July, Bell told David Aldridge of The Athletic he spoke with Nationals manager Dave Martinez about wanting to stay with the club for a "long time," but he also understands the situation with the deadline looming.

"It's one of those things where it's kind of out of my hands," Bell said. "We'll definitely see what happens. But I think the organization knows how pleased I am being here, with the city and all that, and with the community as a whole. I think this organization does pretty much everything right. So I'm definitely happy to throw on the Nationals jersey."

The Astros are clearly the best fit on paper. They are the only top-tier World Series contender who ranks inside the bottom 10 of OPS from their first basemen this season, per FanGraphs.

That said, Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked Houston 27th in his updated farm system rankings following the 2022 MLB draft, so it may not have enough assets to survive a pre-deadline bidding war if another team show serious interest in the Nats star.

It sounds like the 'Stros are going to make some upgrades to the roster one way or another before next week, even if they fall short in the Bell sweepstakes.


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