Dodgers Still Noncommittal on Cody Bellinger - Cubs Likely to Pursue Him If Non-Tendered

Social Navigation

Dodgers Still Noncommittal on Cody Bellinger – Cubs Likely to Pursue Him If Non-Tendered

Chicago Cubs

The Qualifying Offer decision deadline and Rule 5 Draft rostering deadline today will get a lot of the attention, but don’t sleep on the fact that the non-tender deadline is also this week. Historically, they’d been separated by two weeks – not so this year. So stay tuned for Friday.

One of the biggest decisions coming that day is whether the Los Angeles Dodgers tender former MVP Cody Bellinger a contract. Bellinger, 27, is heading into his final year of arbitration and is projected to land a deal worth over $18 million. But he’s been so bad the last two years at the plate that it has become reasonable to think the Dodgers might prefer to move on, rather than risk paying nearly $20 million for another year of Bellinger becoming a quality defender with a terrible bat.

To that end, although the Dodgers have had weeks to indicate publicly that they plan to tender Bellinger a contract, they have repeatedly declined to do so. Most recently, from the OC Register:

The Dodgers have until Friday to tender him a contract for 2023. If they decide they can no longer absorb his offensive regression at that price, they could make him a non-tendered free agent.

“We still very much believe in Belli’s ability and we got to see first hand how hard he worked throughout the season,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the GM Meetings. “Obviously, he’d be the first to tell you that it was below the expectations that he has for himself. Right now, I know he’s working with our guys and doing everything he can to put himself in position to be a real force for us next year.

“We still have time to work through what everything looks like.”

In other words, I suspect two things are happening behind the scenes: (1) the Dodgers may be trying to get Bellinger to agree to a pre-tender deal (i.e., sign now for something less than he would receive in arbitration, thus avoiding the non-tender); and/or (2) find a trade partner that is willing to tender Bellinger, and might give up a tiny something in return.

If Bellinger were a free agent right now, it seems quite clear that he’d be looking, realistically, at a one-year deal from a team that hoped he could bounce back. But would he get $18 million on that deal? I think not. A non-tender seems likely to me.

At that point, Bellinger will be a free agent, and we’ve discussed the clear fit with the Cubs. Previous reports have the Cubs indeed interested. And there are a couple more to add.

The Athletic duo of Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney wrapped the GM Meetings here, including a section on the Cubs and Bellinger:

The Nov. 18 tender deadline will be another important date on the calendar. The Cubs will be monitoring what the Los Angeles Dodgers do with Cody Bellinger, who remains eligible for arbitration for one more year. Bellinger earned $17 million this year while posting a .654 OPS, continuing the long decline from his MVP peak in 2019. Bellinger needed shoulder surgery after the 2020 season and struggled throughout most of the past two years. But Bellinger would check a lot of boxes as a change-of-scenery player who could bring left-handed power and defensive versatility at positions of need. The Cubs could also give Bellinger a good one-year platform to rebuild his value.

“It’s about health and strength,” Boras said. “We know he’s a five-tool player, an MVP type. Unfortunately, he got hurt in that World Series. We’ve had COVID in between that. We have interrupted elements. So to get him a really, really solid offseason and get his strength back — you got to remember this guy is an amazing defender, a great baserunner. He has a hugely accurate throwing arm. He can play Gold Glove first base and center field. You just don’t find talents like this. He’s 27 years old. It’s really about getting his strength back so he can repeat his skill level.”

And Gordon Wittenmyer’s offseason predictions article today sends Bellinger to the Cubs:

This assumes the 2019 MVP is non-tendered by the Dodgers Thursday on the heels of two injury-hampered, under-performing seasons. If so, he’ll likely be in the market for a short-term deal to recoup value before hitting the free agent market again. That could make Bellinger, 27, an excellent fit for a Cubs team in need of at least job-share at-bats at first and in center — where the Cubs’ closest prospects to the majors (Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario) both are dealing with injuries.

It just seems like Bellinger would be a good fit for the Cubs, and the Cubs would be a good fit for Bellinger.

Keep in mind, no one is expecting Bellinger to bounce back into a well-above-average bat. If he were definitely going to do that, well, he wouldn’t be available in the first place. Instead, this is a situation where the market for center field is terrible, and Bellinger might simply be the most logical option for the Cubs against that backdrop.

Latest from Bleacher Nation:

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.