EDITOR’S NOTE: I first wrote an article about Cody Bellinger as a free agent here about four weeks ago, before he actually hit the FA market.
Bellinger was non-tendered by the Dodgers Friday, granting him free agency. I still believe he’s a good idea for the 2023 Cubs.
So, here’s my article again, edited a bit to acknowledge the free agency.
Cody Bellinger, non-tendered by the Dodgers Friday, is 27 years old (he turns 28 next July 13, so 2023 will be his age-27 season) 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.
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?
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, here is what I would propose, the same deal I posted here last month: A one-year contract 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. If he doesn’t meet the final incentive, throw in a $4 million buyout. That would give Bellinger a minimum of $14 million over two years (the buyout would count in 2024).
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 have gotten $18.1 million in 2023 if he had gone through that process.
From the True Blue LA article I linked above:
“I still very much believe in the true talent and ability, and I’ve watched how hard he has worked and how much he cares,” Andrew Friedman said in a November 9 interview on MLB Network. “Obviously last year was disappointing, he’d be the first to say that, and that there’s a lot more in there. It’s incumbent upon him, us, everyone to figure out how to do that. From a talent and work ethic standpoint, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to.”
I agree with the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations. The talent is still there. Now that he’s a free agent, I say the Cubs should go after him. Yes, this would be a fairly high-risk signing. It also has a potential very high reward.
... the Cubs should sign him to a contract like the one proposed in the article
... the Cubs should sign him, but it will take more money or years or both
... the Cubs should not sign him
Something else (leave in comments)