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Cubs free agent target: Cody Bellinger

Wait, hear me out.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The first thing you need to know here is that Cody Bellinger is not a free agent — yet. He’s 27 years old and just finished up a $17 million contract in his second-to-last year of arbitration eligibility.

Bellinger has had three really bad years in a row, mostly due to multiple injuries. In 2022 alone he missed time due to illness and leg and calf issues, this after having a broken rib and hamstring problems in 2021.

It seems quite likely that the Dodgers will non-tender Bellinger and move on from him. He did play in three of the four games of the Dodgers’ division series against the Padres, and was healthy for most of the second half of 2022. But in that second half, he hit just .211/.258/.407 (42-for-199) with eight home runs in 60 games.

So why should the Cubs sign this guy if he hits free agency?

Because as recently as 2019, he was NL MVP, when he batted .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs and led the league with 351 total bases. (Comparison point: The last Cub to have at least that many total bases was Derrek Lee, 393 in 2005, and only 15 Cubs have ever had that many in a season.)

Obviously, health would be paramount in signing Bellinger to any sort of deal. You don’t want to pay the guy and then see him injured and miss time.

So, I would propose: A one-year deal with a base salary of $6 million, with $1 million incentives for each of 100, 110, 120, 130 and 140 games played. Thus if he played 140+ games, it’s an $11 million deal. And, if he reaches that final figure, put in two vesting options for $16 million in 2024 and $22 million for 2025. That way, it’s a three-year, $49 million deal if Bellinger is healthy and (presumably) productive.

While Bellinger has been relatively unproductive at the plate, he’s continued to be a good center fielder. Here’s a terrific catch he made in the division series against the Padres [VIDEO].

MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections say Bellinger would get $18.1 million in 2023 through the arbitration process. I don’t see the Dodgers paying that and they will likely non-tender him.

If they do, should the Cubs go after him? He doesn’t turn 28 until July, so 2023 will be his age-27 season.


If the Dodgers non-tender Cody Bellinger...

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to a contract like the one in the article
    (358 votes)
  • 12%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but it will take more money or years or both to do it
    (113 votes)
  • 45%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (415 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (18 votes)
904 votes total Vote Now