Cubs GM Carter Hawkins Says the Cubs Would “Love” to Find a Way to Keep Cody Bellinger Around Long-Term (But)
From the moment he signed with the Chicago Cubs, I have proceeded on one grand assumption on outfielder Cody Bellinger: whatever happened, there would be zero chance Bellinger was with the Cubs in 2024.
It wasn’t a particularly bold assumption. Bellinger, who explicitly chose a one-year deal with the Cubs over multi-year offers elsewhere, is trying to use this season to rebuild his value for another run at free agency. The 27-year-old former MVP has the potential to be the rare plus-glove, plus-bat center fielder for several more years, and if he can demonstrate that the last couple years were merely an injury fluke, then his earning potential this winter is massive.
So massive that it is very hard to imagine the Cubs – with 80-grade center field prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong ascending the minors (and fellow center field prospect Kevin Alcántara already on the 40-man roster) – being the team that would give him such a deal. And that was before the Cubs committed additional dollars to their future outfield in the form of an Ian Happ extension.
So, I reasoned, either Bellinger would be solid this year and price himself out of the Cubs’ interest at that particular spot, or Bellinger would continue to struggle and, well, that’d be that. Any looking ahead at a possible extension, then, just didn’t make sense to me as a worthwhile discussion. Either he would super not be into it, or the Cubs would super not be into it. Both sides knew what this was when they signed in December, and it was a one-year platform deal. Nothing more.
In all candor, after a month and a half of Bellinger on the Cubs … I … still think all that stuff.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Bellinger has been a revelation with the Cubs, and has been a version of himself that I would LOVE to see on the team for years to come. When his free agency arrives, if he’s been this guy all year, you know I’m probably going to twist myself into knots trying to figure out a way that signing Bellinger to a Brandon Nimmo deal (dude got eight years and $168 million, good lord) makes total sense for the Cubs and for Bellinger. Prospects are only prospects, after all, and Bellinger will be only 28 years old. Take the still youthful bird in hand!
I just don’t see the Cubs actually doing it, instead preferring to allocate those resources at spots where they DON’T have their literal two best prospects coming.
Nor do I see Bellinger giving the Cubs the kind of big discount in an extension that would be necessary for the Cubs to say, ok, yup, bird in hand, this deal and this guy are just too good not to sign. Why would Bellinger do that when he would have just put himself in a position to get a MONSTER free agent contract, which was PRECISELY the reason he signed this one-year deal with the Cubs in the first place?
Still, I get why people want to talk about it. I get why Cubs GM Carter Hawkins was asked about it today on The Score:
“If you asked me, ‘Hey, do you want a plus defensive center fielder that can hit both righties and lefties with some power and is great in the clubhouse?’ Like, yeah, I’ll take that,” Hawkins said. “So, we’re really excited about having him be here and would love to find a way to have him here for a long time. When there’s an appropriate time to have those conversations, we’ll have them.”
I’m not sure what else Hawkins is supposed to say, even as I’m sure all of that is completely true. Of course the Cubs would love to have this version of Bellinger for many years to come. I would love it, too.
I just don’t see a realistic path toward that happening, at least not by way of an extension before this season ends.
If Bellinger continues to play this well, he will get a Qualifying Offer from the Cubs after the season, which he will reject. Then the sides can talk in free agency, even as I suspect Bellinger’s market will be stronger elsewhere. We’ll see when we get there.
In the meantime, I just hope Bellinger keeps on rebounding as strongly as he has been.