The prospect cost for Josh Bell won’t be as high since he is a half season rental.
The Astros’ farm system continues to rate low across all scouting reports, boasting only one top-100 prospect in their system at number 86 with Hunter Brown (per MLB.com). I wouldn’t be surprised if, after the new post-draft rankings come out, Drew Gilbert shoots up to number two in the system over Korey Lee, Pedro Leon, etc.
Bell is in the final season of his contract and players who only have a half season left are cheaper to acquire prospect-wise than someone who’s under team control beyond this season, like Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Brian Reynolds or Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto.
The Astros likely don’t have a deep enough farm system to trade for someone with more than a year of control, but they do have enough talent at the top of their farm to get Josh Bell for half a season.
I don’t know what the prospect cost would be, but it’s possible the Astros could survive making this trade without giving up top prospect Hunter Brown considering the short amount of time Bell has left on his contract.
The Astros could go the quantity-over-quality route as they did when they acquired Gerrit Cole, and give the Nationals four high-risk, high-reward prospects.
A package that could make sense is some combination of Forrest Whitley, Joe Perez, Corey Julks and/or Jose Siri. Three of these four prospects are 24 years of age or older with Perez being the exception.
Whitley would be a high-risk, high-reward prospect if he does finally figure out how to harness his stuff. Remember, he was the number one right handed pitching prospect in all of baseball at one point but has been derailed by injuries.
Regardless, the fact that Bell’s cost will be lower because of his short contract makes him the most feasible trade target for a team with a weak farm system that is trying to keep its window of contention open.
The Astros wouldn’t have to sell the farm for him and can continue to develop and draft to rebuild after losing two years of first round draft picks.
Bell would give the Astros’ lineup depth, and he’d be a health insurance policy on Brantley, Alvarez and Gurriel. Considering their rotation and bullpen seem to be set and ready for October (not to mention adding Lance McCullers Jr. at some point), the depth of the offense is the only glaring hole on this team with championship aspirations.
As currently constructed, this team can win in the regular season. It needs one final boost to assure it will win in the postseason. Bell is that boost.