It’s still very early in the 2022 season, and the Blue Jays have started off well at 17-13, but it’s never too early to think about the next big acquisition for this team.
For a Blue Jays offence that hasn’t been firing on all cylinders to start the season, the biggest fix will come from within. To that end, Teoscar Hernandez has returned to the lineup, and eventually Danny Jansen will re-join the active roster as well. They’re also not getting top-tier production from most of their offensive stars, but it’s a matter of time before the Jays get an improved output from the likes of Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and more.
Even if I have faith that the Blue Jays offence will hit another gear or two in the not so distant future, I’ll admit that I’d love to see them get one more bat to compliment the weapons they already have. There were heavy rumours that the Blue Jays were still pursuing a trade for Jose Ramirez even after they acquired Matt Chapman prior to the start of the regular season, but they never got that one more bat to put them over the top once a deal couldn’t be reached with the Guardians. While Ramirez isn’t going anywhere after signing an extension in Cleveland, there are plenty of other talented hitters around the league. The trick is finding the right player, and a willing trade partner.
As I look ahead to what could be a busy trade season in July, there’s one player that stands out to me as an obvious target for the Blue Jays, and that’s Josh Bell of the Washington Nationals. Based on what I’ve seen on social media lately, I’m clearly not the only one that sees a potential fit here. The Nationals likely won’t factor into the NL playoff race, and Bell is playing on the last year of his contract before he’ll become a free agent after the season.
Bell may not be the same calibre of dream target that Ramirez could have been, but I think the fit could work even better for the Blue Jays with their roster as of today. The less than ideal part is that Bell is primarily a first baseman, which is a position clearly occupied by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. However, he’s also spent some time in the outfield, and my guess is he would be the primary DH in Toronto most of the time anyway.
It would be a move that would likely come later in the season if at all, and at that point the Blue Jays will be able to fully assess their needs based on performance, and of course any injuries that change the picture. However, if they’re fully healthy I think there’s a way that the switch-hitting Bell could fit in very nicely. Here’s how I picture a healthy Blue Jays lineup that includes Bell:
1- George Springer (CF)
2- Bo Bichette (SS)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B)
4- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
5- Josh Bell (DH)
6- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
7- Matt Chapman (3B)
8- Danny Jansen (C)
9- Santiago Espinal (2B)
As things stand the Blue Jays don’t have a left-handed hitter in their lineup unless they’re starting one or more of Raimel Tapia, Bradley Zimmer, Cavan Biggio (when healthy), or Zack Collins. Each of those players will play a role throughout the year, but ideally the Jays would have a left-handed stick in the lineup on a regular basis, and Bell gives them that against right-handers.
Not only that, Bell can flat out hit, even if he’s not as appreciated for the skill as he should be. So far this season he’s slashed .343/.442/.529 with four home runs, seven doubles, and 21 RBI over his first 102 at-bats. Last season he started off very slow, but he finished the year with a mark of .261/.347/.476 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI over 144 games.
With the Nationals starting off with a 10-20 record and a firm place in the basement of the competitive NL East, it only reinforces the belief that they’ll be sellers once June or July rolls around, and Bell is an obvious candidate to put on the block. There could be several teams interested in his services, but depending on how the Blue Jays are performing in another month or two, they should be prepared to make a serious push for the 29 year old.
As I said, I recognize that it’s very early and that the needs of the roster could change before we get to the true MLB summer trade season, but as of today the fit with a slugger like Josh Bell makes all kinds of sense for the Blue Jays.