Marlins first baseman Bell understands trade speculation, but he still has to keep focused

Miami slugger Josh Bell is certainly used to learning new zip codes, but that doesn’t mean he enjoys wearing a different uniform every year.

Since the NL-worst 21-40 Marlins dealt two-time batting champion Luis Arraez to San Diego for reliever Woo-Suk Go and three minor- league prospects last month, they have been pegged as sellers before the July 30 trade deadline.

Bell, 31, and Tuesday’s starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo, have been linked as players soon to be traded by’s Mark Feinsand. Bell, a switch-hitting first baseman/designated hitter, has played for five teams in nine seasons, including four since 2021 (Washington, San Diego, Cleveland and Miami, after playing his first five seasons in Pittsburgh).

“That’s the first I heard of it,’’ Bell said before his RBI triple in the first inning on the heels of a 414-foot home run by Bryan De La Cruz went for naught in a 9-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at loanDepot Park. Bell added a double in the eighth but left the tying run at the plate on a dribbler to the pitcher.

“I’ve been part of trade talks pretty much every year from 2020 on. That’s part of the game. It wasn’t the case when I first came into the league and the team had control over me for a long period of time. Once you get to arbitration if your team’s not playing well, it just makes sense to trade guys and try to shoot for the future. I try not to play GM. I’ll let someone else do that and I’ll just play baseball.”

The three-run first, that included a two-out RBI single by Otto Lopez, snapped an 18-inning scoring drought, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a three-game skid. Luzardo’s market value might have dropped after the 26-year-old southpaw (2-5) lost his command and allowed a career-high nine runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings to raise his ERA from 4.18 to 5.30.

Luzardo had been sharp in his three previous starts, allowing three runs through 20 innings (1.35 ERA) with two walks and 15 strikeouts.

“I felt like I was cruising in the first three, felt amazing, just the fourth and fifth happened so fast and in the blink of an eye they put up nine runs,’’ Luzardo said. “It’s frustrating. It is what it is. There’s nothing I could do to change it. I have to move forward and get better.”

Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe (entered with a .183 average) accounted for five of those runs with a three-run homer in the fourth off a slider and two-run double in the fifth in which the 30-31 Rays batted around.

“A couple of walks hurt him, didn’t take the swing and miss on the changeup, so I think that was the difference maker today,’’ said Marlins manager Skip Schumaker. “Got beat on some middle-middle sliders that cost him as well.

“There was a lot of hard contact in the fourth and fifth. Sometimes you have days like that and things got away from him.”

The Marlins have lost 22 of their past 25 meetings with Tampa Bay since 2019 and are now 59-79 in the all-time sour Citrus Series.

Rays right-handed starter Ryan Pepiot (4-2) settled down after Miami’s three-run first, allowing just one single through his next five innings, while finishing with eight strikeouts and no walks.

Miami mounted a bases-loaded, no-out rally in the ninth, forcing Rays manager Kevin Cash to bring in his closer Pete Fairbanks, who secured his seventh save without allowing a run.

A change of address for Bell would really be poor timing for the resurgent Marlins and Bell. Prior to the weekend’s back-to-back shutout losses to Texas, Miami was coming off a 14-13 rebound month of May after a disastrous 7-26 start.

Bell is also on the rebound. After hitting .181 average in his first 31 games, since May, Bell is batting .313 with nine doubles, a triple, three homers and 19 RBI, ranking third in the National Leagie during that span in average (minimum of 100 at-bats). He’s batting .247 overall with six homers and 29 RBI, tying Jazz Chisholm Jr. for the team lead in RBI, but leads in doubles with 12.

“It was just baseball,’’ said Bell, who has slammed 22 or more homers in four of his eight full seasons, including a career-high 37 homers with 116 RBI for Pittsburgh in 2019 when he made his lone All-Star appearance.

“That first month it seemed every ball I put in play wasn’t falling for me. I did make some adjustments. I’ve played this game long enough to know if I’m in the lineup I’m going to do damage eventually. It’s only a matter of time. [Schumaker] trusted me. I was able to get through that funk that I was in and hopefully the same story is true for June.”

The Boston Red Sox shopping list includes a first baseman such as Bell. Starter Triston Casas is on the 60-day injured list since fouling off a pitch on April 20 and sustaining torn cartilage in his rib cage. His replacements, former Marlin Garrett Cooper and veteran Dominic Smith are hovering around the .200 mark.

“I feel like anywhere in the big leagues is a good place to hit,’’ smiled Bell, who in six career games in Fenway Park has only one homer while batting just .136. “It’s definitely a learning experience. It’s not a cookie-cutter or the same scenario every time, but I think I’ve learned from some of the trades in the past.

“It might be tougher for a fan base [losing Arraez], but for us internally we understand we’re not going to play this game forever. If we could put a big-league jersey on it doesn’t matter for what team. We’re just trying to play the best we can for as long as we can.”

Schumaker understands that Bell’s revolving locations has nothing to do with his production, work ethic or clubhouse leadership.

“He’s a true pro. … Maybe sometimes he’s on losing teams and winning teams want him,’’ Schumaker said. “It’s the situation he’s been in at the time he was traded, they were in a different spot in the season where they were not going to get to the playoffs and another team wants him. It’s not because he’s a bad guy, I can tell you that. He always produces so as long as one team wants you, you’re OK, and he’s had multiple teams want him.”

Sound familiar? Bell made it clear that he is very happy playing for the Marlins and is in no hurry to be a summer rental or go house-hunting with his wife, Arlia, and daughters’ Noa Marie, 2, and Liv, who celebrated her first birthday on Sunday.

“Miami’s been great. Obviously, I played well here,’’ said Bell, who in 2023 hit .247 with 22 homers and 75 RBI for Cleveland and the Marlins, who acquired him last Aug. 1 for minor-league infielder Kahili Watson and veteran infielder Jean Segura. “I think the fan base has treated me extremely well and my family really well. It’s always cool to get stopped at restaurants and guys are like, ‘Keep going, I love your game.’ It’s been a great experience. I’ll just focus on tonight. That’s all I can do is try to beat the Rays and try to get us back in this thing.”