Guardians fill void at first base in a big way with surprising signing

The Cleveland Guardians have signed former All-Star first baseman Josh Bell to play first base. Bell was arguably the best first baseman remaining on the free-agent market.

Josh Bell will fill a void at first base, a role that was previously held by the likes of Josh Naylor and Owen Miller. Cleveland signed Bell to a short-term deal at a relatively higher AAV, which is a common theme at the 2022 MLB Winter Meetings.

While nowhere near as lucrative as the pitching market, Bell was one of the only solid first basemen remaining on the free-agent market. His market was heating up the last few days, especially after Jose Abreu signed with the Houston Astros.

At 30 years old, Cleveland will hope they’re getting the Josh Bell who spent the first half of the 2022 season with the Washington Nationals, not the Josh Bell who was traded to the San Diego Padres and hit under the Mendoza line.

Can the Cleveland Guardians count on Josh Bell?

Josh Bell made the NL All-Star team with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019, and won a Silver Slugger last season as a member of the Nationals/Padres.

Bell struggled to really make an impact in San Diego, as he was part of the trade which sent Juan Soto to the Pads. After the trade, Bell slashed just .192/.316/.271, while he was a .300 hitter through 103 games in Washington D.C.

A switch-hitting first baseman is a valuable commodity in today’s market, and because of his second-half struggles, the Guardians were able to afford Bell at a decent price point. Bell seems like an excellent clubhouse presence by most accounts, and is transitioning from a power hitter to one who can make solid contact from both sides of the plate.

While the shift is coming to an end anyway, Bell was always tough to play against in that regard, due to his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. His consistency in that regard — he’s really improved as a right-handed hitter of late — is part of what gives Cleveland hope he’ll be an excellent use of their money.

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