Cubs Reportedly Interested in Cody Bellinger and Kevin Kiermaier for Center Field

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Cubs Reportedly Interested in Cody Bellinger and Kevin Kiermaier for Center Field

Chicago Cubs

I am just gonna say two things up front, because I know a lot of folks will cringe at that headline.

1.) I am actually really happy to see it, because I think getting one of those two guys could be part of a successful offseason for the Cubs, and are the short-term types they should be looking at; and

2.) The center field market this year is terrrrrrible, and you can’t just invent a great target out of thin air. It’s Brandon Nimmo and then nothing. So either you’re giving Nimmo $130 million or whatever on the guess that his 2022 production is the real Nimmo *AND* that he can finally stay healthy for the first time in his career, or you take the best fit you can find and spend your big money elsewhere.

OK.

Here’s the report, via Gordon Wittenmyer: “(T)hree-time Gold Glove centerfielder Kevin Kiermeier, who had his 2023 option declined by the Rays, and (Cody) Bellinger are both on the Cubs’ radar, according to sources.”

Each of Kiermaier and Bellinger check a lot of boxes for the Cubs in center field, if you’re being realistic: excellent defense, lefty bat, short-term. It’s why their names have come up around here before in a very weak free agent class, and why – when coordinated with other moves – they can be part of a successful offseason for the Cubs.

We’ve written at length about Bellinger before, and he’ll need to be non-tendered (or traded) by the Dodgers next week before he’s actually available. At $17-ish million in arbitration (projected), it is not expected that the Dodgers will keep him, but it’s not yet a lock that he departs.

For the Cubs, as a one-year bounce-back option, whose floor as an excellent defender in center field (and with the ability to play great defense at first base or in the corner outfield spots), it seems like a great fit to me. No, you cannot expect the Bellinger of old, but at 27 and in a new organization, it’s not inconceivable that he could be an average or better bat again. Pair that with the defense and a short-term commitment (no risk!), why wouldn’t the Cubs want to take a shot? You just have to be reasonable about the expected outcome, and understand that you’re kinda making the best of a bad free agent situation in center field.

As for Kiermaier, the risk there is mostly about the hip injury that ended his season early last year, and whether the early-season defensive metrics (small sample, but way down) are a concern. Kiermaier’s value is his elite defense in center field and the ability to be a league average bat (against righties, at least). Turning 33 in April, will Kiermaier still have the range to be a top-tier defender in center? Will the bat fall off to the point where he’s a huge negative, even against righties? Maybe, maybe not. But this is definitely slim-pickins situation in free agency, and Kiermaier at least checks boxes.

Note on Kiermaier: his brother Dan is the head groundskeeper at Wrigley Field, so he may have a little extra reason to come on a reasonable deal.

The Cubs may wind up getting creative in trade or with a platoon, but the fact is, center field was a disaster last year, especially defensively. And with both Alexander Canario and Brennen Davis now huge question marks for 2023 (and with a desire not to block Pete Crow-Armstrong long-term), I am very on board for the Cubs staying short-term and focusing on defense, since that’s what is available.

Jed Hoyer said the Cubs would be going external for center field, and in free agency, Bellinger and Kiermaier might be about as good as the realistic options get. (Just make sure to, you know, add impact elsewhere …. )



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.