Potential Mariners Target: Josh Bell could be upgrade at DH

Nov 12, 2022, 9:41 AM
Mariners Josh Bell...
Josh Bell hits an RBI double for the Padres during NLCS against the Phillies on Oct. 23, 2022. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

One spot that isn’t getting a lot of attention as the offseason kicks into gear for the Mariners is designated hitter. But maybe it should.

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Seattle received production at the position in 2022 from Carlos Santana, a midseason trade acquisition whose impact was bigger than his numbers suggest. Though he finished with a .192/.293/.400 slash line in 79 games for Seattle, a good chunk of the switch-hitter’s 15 homers over that span were of the clutch variety, and he gave Seattle not only a secondary option at first base but a boost as a veteran leader in the clubhouse.

At the end of the season, though, comments by president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto made it seem like a reunion with the 36-year-old Santana, who is now a free agent, is a long shot.

The Mariners may have another DH option in Jesse Winker, but his struggles on the field and a reportedly frayed relationship with teammates could spell the end of his time in Seattle before next season.

“I think that it’s still a coin flip that Jesse Winker is on this roster on opening day,” MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi told Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Wednesday, “and it’s not necessarily because of the drama considering the clubhouse, etc. I just think that there are scenarios in which he’s packaged as part of a larger deal. … Jerry could say, ‘Listen, we think Winker’s value is this, and if you’re gonna want (to trade for starting pitcher Chris) Flexen, then you have to take Winker’s contract, and then maybe we’ll take a lesser return to save the money on Winker.’ All these things become possible.”

If that’s in play, then maybe so could be an upgrade at DH.

“One name I’d mention, too, as we think about DH spots,” Morosi said, “… I think Josh Bell is an interesting guy.”

He certainly is.

Bell, 30, could be seen as a younger version of Santana as a switch-hitting first baseman/DH with power and a discerning eye at the plate.

An All-Star in 2019 for a 36-homer, 119-RBI season with the Pirates, he split time between Washington and San Diego in 2022, and while his production following a trade to the Padres wasn’t great (.192/.316/.271 slash in 53 games), he’s still a player who could provide impact as an addition in free agency.

In 103 games with Washington, Bell slashed .301/.384/.493 for an .877 OPS with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 57 runs batted in. He also had a decent postseason, slashing .250/.270/.444 with two homers, a double and five RBIs in 10 games to help the Padres reach the NLCS.

There’s a lot to like with his underlying metrics in 2022 from Statcast, too, ranking in the 93rd percentile in walk rate, 86th percentile in xBA, 84th percentile in xwOBA, and 83rd percentile in both max exit velocity and strikeout rate. In fact, his Statcast page looks awfully similar to Santana’s, but with significant boosts in some key areas.

“Bell is a power guy, he’s a switch-hitter so he gives you some balance,” Morosi said. “I realize he maybe didn’t have the impact on San Diego that we thought he was going to have, but I’ve always been a Josh Bell fan. I think he can play, really good athlete – better than you think he is. He’s not going to supplant (Ty) France at first base but I’d love him as a DH, and I think he’d be a really good player to have as part of this this Mariners team going forward.”

You can listen to Morosi’s full conversation with Wyman and Bob in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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