We learned not to give offseason grades too early after the Nationals signed Eric Thames, so we’ll wait a while before judging the Josh Bell.
Usually I avoid handing out grades when judging transactions for the Washington Nationals. I am too subjective and have a hard time separating myself from the actual business interests of my favorite team.
That being said, were I to give grades on the offseason pickups last year, prior to the season, I probably would have given the Eric Thames addition a B+.
Thames was coming off a season where he hit 25 home runs with an OPS of .851, for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thames had three decent years with the Brewers, though, what sparked the imagination was what he did prior to joining the Brew Crew. In three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization from 2014-16, Thames hit 124 home runs, drove in 382 runs, and stole 64 bases. His batting average was .349 during this time, with an OPS of 1.172.
He crushed the ball, and ran the base paths well. True, his efforts were in the KBO, not the MLB, however the potential was there. I saw the hulking figure and out of anticipation of towering moonshots to come, would have graded on the side of favoritism.
A .203 batting average and three home runs later, Thames surely would have gotten an F, for his time with the Nationals.
Therefore, as we mull over the grades we want to give this crop of offseason additions, we should fight off the urge to assess on past performances.
I would like to grade Josh Bell on potentially remaking his 2019 season, where he hit .277 with 37 home runs. However, he could post results like his .226, 8 home run, 2020 season. As a fan of the Nationals, I hope for a season closer to the former state line, though we are probably going to see something in between.
While we can’t grade the player, yet, we can grade the trade. The move cost the Nationals two minor league players (although Wil Crowe made his major league debut last year) and sent a message to the team and the fan base, the championship window is still open as far as general manager Mike Rizzo is concerned. For this reason, I give the move an A.
We’ll reconvene at the end of the season for the grade on the player.