MLB Trade Rumors: Astros Eye Josh Bell amid Yuli Gurriel's 'Slippage' and Mets Buzz

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 29, 2022

Washington Nationals first baseman Josh Bell goes after but can't get to a foul ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers' Jake Lamb during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Josh Bell (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Houston Astros and New York Mets have reportedly checked on the availability of Washington Nationals first baseman Josh Bell ahead of Tuesday's 2022 MLB trade deadline, but the Nats' asking price is "high."

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported Friday the Astros exchanged names with the Nationals amid concerns about "slippage" in the play from their first baseman, Yuli Gurriel, while the Mets made an initial offer but "don't seem as likely" to land Bell.

The 29-year-old is a strong bet to get dealt somewhere before the deadline because Washington is focused firmly on the future given its 34-66 record, and the Texas native is scheduled to become a free agent at season's end.

He's one of the top rental hitters available on the market thanks to his .302 batting average, .877 OPS and 13 home runs in 99 games so far in 2022. He mashed a career-high 37 homers with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019.

Bell told David Aldridge of The Athletic in early July he had a conversation with Nationals manager Dave Martinez last year about wanting a long-term stay in the nation's capital.

"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."

That said, as the rumors have intensified in the days leading up to the deadline, he also expressed a readiness to potentially play in bigger games.

"I feel like it's one of the things that you strive to be in as a kid," Bell told reporters. "It's a scenario where the game's on the line, you want the bat in your hands, you want the opportunity to win it. So, that's what makes this game fun."

Returning to his home state to play for the Astros would represent a jump from a rebuilding club to one firmly in the World Series conversation.

Houston didn't have a need at first base entering the season, but Gurriel has struggled mightily after capturing the 2021 AL batting title. His OPS (.681) and WAR (minus-0.1) both rank 27th out of 28 qualified players at the position, per FanGraphs.

Adding Bell, who's sixth among first basemen in WAR (2.4), would fill one of the few holes on an Astros roster that ranks sixth in OPS (.739) and second in team ERA (3.05).

Meanwhile, the Mets don't have a need at first base with NL MVP candidate Pete Alonso manning the position, but Bell could take over as the club's primary designated hitter. J.D. Davis and the recently acquired Daniel Vogelbach are currently sharing the DH role.

New York, led by big-spending owner Steve Cohen, figures to remain active leading up to the deadline as it attempts to hold off the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves in the NL East. It holds a three-game lead in the division race.

Regardless of where he lands, Bell should represent one of the biggest deadline additions for any contender over the next handful of days.