Josh Bell eager to bring his bat and power to 'scrappy' Guardians

Dec. 12—Josh Bell, the Guardians' new first baseman/designated hitter, is eager to put his stamp on what he described as "the scrappiest team in the league."

Bell officially signed his two-year contract with the Guardians on Dec. 12 after agreeing to terms on the $33-million deal that includes an opt-out after 2023 last week.

Bell, Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and Bell's agent, Scott Boras, after the contract signing were on a Zoom call with media covering the Guardians.

"They're probably the scrappiest team in the league in regards to offense, you know, the lowest strikeout rate in the league," Bell said. "I think they were up there with the most comeback wins.

"For me personally, you look at the top three in the order (Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario and Jose Ramirez), you got three guys that have stolen 20 bases and that's before the bases get bigger and before pitchers have three strikes and you're out in regards to pickoff moves. So, the numbers will go up there, as well. For me, as a middle-of-the-order guy, I'd love to slate myself in the lineup where I'm gonna have runners in scoring position quite often. It's definitely an exciting time for me offensively."

Bell is a 30-year-old switch-hitter. He played five seasons with the Pirates. He was with the Nationals in 2021 and part of 2022 before being traded to the Padres last summer. He has 130 career home runs.

It's easy to get excited about the newest @CleGuardians player Josh Bell

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) December 12, 2022

"One of the things we sought to do was really identify a middle-of-the-order bat that could contribute offensively, but as importantly, contribute to the fabric in our clubhouse and help us thrive as an organization," Antonetti said. "And in many respects, Josh checked all the boxes.

"He's a switch-hitting middle-of-the-order bat that controls the strike zone extraordinarily well. He's hit for prodigious power in the past. He does a good job. He doesn't swing and miss a ton."

Bell has 93 of his 130 home runs and 340 of his 468 RBI batting left-handed. He has a lifetime batting average of .269 batting average against right-handed pitching compared to .244 against lefties. He hit a career-high 37 home runs with the Pirates in 2019. He hit 27 with the Nationals in 2021 but only 17 with Washington and San Diego combined last season.

Starting in the 2023 season, teams will no longer be allowed to play three infielders on one side of second base. The shift also prohibits teams from stationing an infielder in short right or short left field.

Bell expects to benefit from the shift ban, particularly since he bats left-handed the majority of the time. His contract with the Guardians is for $16.5 million in 2023 and the same in 2024. But if he has the season he envisions, he believes he would be underpaid at $16.5 million in 2024.

"I don't know what to expect next year without the shift," Bell said. "I feel like a lot of lefties have been waiting for this moment for a long time. It's something that's kind of an incentive where if I can do what I think I can do regardless of numbers or anything like that, I'm gonna have another crack at getting a raise next year.

"Couple times in my career already, I feel like I've scratched the surface of who I can really be for a sustained period of time. If I can show that for a longer period next year, hopefully I can be rewarded for it. But in my mind, it's an opportunity for me to go off for the Guardians and if things go well, I'll be back again."

The Guardians ranked 29th of 30 teams with 127 home runs in 2022.

The batting order for the Guardians could look like this next season: LF Steven Kwan, SS Amed Rosario, 3B Jose Ramirez, 1B Josh Naylor, DH Josh Bell, RF Oscar Gonzalez, 2B Andres Gimenez, C Bo Naylor, CF Myles Straw.