Cody Bellinger Notes: Tons of Interest, Cubs Involvement, Short-Term Deal, Priorities, More

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Cody Bellinger Notes: Tons of Interest, Cubs Involvement, Short-Term Deal, Priorities, More

Chicago Cubs

In the wake of his expected, yet still big news, non-tender from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger has been the subject of a wholllle lot of chatter around the league. That, too, is to be expected. After all, this is a 27-year-old, former star player who fell so far off the last two years that almost every team would love a low-risk shot at reclaiming him.

And, of course, when that happens, the “low-risk” part of the equation naturally starts to take on more risk, since the price tag to beat out other suitors goes up. So, even as the Dodgers non-tendered Bellinger rather than risk an $18+ million payout in arbitration, I don’t think this is a situation where Bellinger is going to get a whole lot less than that on a one-year deal. It’s going to be pretty close to that figure when all is said and done, I’d expect.

Oh, and if you were wondering, no, I don’t see any reason Bellinger would take a multi-year deal right now, when the entire idea from his perspective is to try to bounce way back and set up a big payday while he’s in his prime.

To confirm that it’s a one-year deal situation, Bellinger’s agent Scott Board made it pretty plain when speaking with Ken Rosenthal: “I’ve already been offered multi-years,” Boras said Sunday, two days after the non-tender. “Most likely, because of his age, we don’t want a multi-year.”

In other words, a multi-year offer (or a one-year deal with team options) would have to be an extreme overpay for Bellinger to give up his chance at bouncing back in 2023, and then scoring big in free agency after the season.

That is a reminder, in turn, that I think the biggest things for Bellinger in free agency are going to be: (1) the biggest one-year guarantee, (2) the most sure-fire 2023 playing time, and (3) the best place/team/situation to work on his swing and help him bounce back. I tend to think those might be in reverse order, too, but I also suspect he’ll get the biggest guarantee from a team that also checks boxes two and three.

I’d be pretty ticked if the Cubs get outbid on a one-year deal on this one. They can offer obvious playing time to Bellinger in center field (and a little at first base), and they do have a recent track record of helping slugging types massage their performance at the margins. And they SHOULD have a boatload of money available to take chances like this, especially on a one-year deal.

Heck, since the uncertainty of arbitration is off the table, I wouldn’t even have any issue with the Cubs offering a one-year deal up and into that projected arbitration range. Yeah, maybe $18-$20 million is “too much” to pay for Bellinger, but at least you know the cost for sure, unlike with arbitration – when you might not actually know how much a guy is going to cost you until February. And after a year, it’s off the books anyway. The Cubs just should not be outbid on a one-year deal for Bellinger, who represents the perfect fit and risk for them this year.

Some more stray Bellinger notes while we track his free agency …

  • Gordon Wittenmyer reports that the Cubs are expected to explore Bellinger’s market, which is not a surprise, but is worth mentioning as a kind of confirmation.
  • At The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney stopped just short of saying the Cubs are definitely going to be all over Bellinger, but he gets top billing in an article about how the Cubs need to transform their roster:

Friday’s deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players opened up more possibilities with the Los Angeles Dodgers cutting loose Cody Bellinger, a former MVP who can handle center field and first base. His elite offensive skills have diminished, but the characteristics of a great player still remain. Given Bellinger’s age (27), taking a one-year risk could make a lot of sense for a team with holes at both of his primary positions. Financial flexibility, especially on short-term deals, is something the Cubs can leverage better than most teams right now. The Cubs have tried this before with players like Jackson (Clint) Frazier, but Bellinger has a far superior resume with a World Series ring, two All-Star selections, and Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. It will also cost a lot more money. MLB Trade Rumors projected Bellinger, a Scott Boras client, would have earned $18.1 million through the arbitration system if the Dodgers had gone that route.

  • Jim Bowden says upwards of five teams called immediately on Friday night:
  • The Blue Jays, who have a very open need in center field for a lefty bat (much like the Cubs), have reached out to Bellinger, per Jon Morosi.
  • Random bonus on Bellinger if you sign him and he breaks out? Yeah, it’s just a one-year deal and he’s leaving you for free agency at that point, but at least you’d get to make him a Qualifying Offer and pick up a draft pick. You can have some fun with math on that one to help determine how much to offer him, by the way. Say you value him at $15 million for 2023. Now say you think there’s a 10% chance he performs so well that he earns a Qualifying Offer at the end of the season. And say you value the draft pick compensation at $10 million. Multiply 10% by $10 million, and you get another $1 million you should be willing to add to your offer – $16 million. (Those numbers are made up, mind you, but it’s a part of this process I think is being overlooked.)
  • Tommy with the reminder that there is now a Bellinger connection on the Cubs’ big league coaching staff:
  • The two may not have worked together all that much (Cody Bellinger was in the big leagues for almost all of the time Dustin Kelly was in the Dodgers’ organization on the minor league side), but Kelly may have some familiarity with – for example – how things were being done with the Dodgers when Bellinger was on the rise. What kind of language might connect when talking about his swing. What kinds of things not to say. And so on and so forth.

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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.