After the two worst seasons of his career, Cody Bellinger will look to rebuild his value in a new home. The former National League MVP agreed to a one-year deal with the Cubs, per multiple reports.
Bellinger’s deal is for one year with a mutual option for a second year.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) December 6, 2022
It’s a $12 million salary in 2023 and a $5.5 million buyout if the mutual option isn’t picked up — essentially a one-year deal because the option isn’t expected to be exercised.
Outfielder Cody Bellinger and the Chicago Cubs are in agreement on a one-year, $17.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 6, 2022
The one-year deal allows Bellinger, who is still just 27 years old, a chance to reestablish himself and hit the free agent market in better standing next offseason.
After an injury-plagued putrid year in 2021, Bellinger was relatively healthy in 2022 but still a wreck at the plate, hitting just .210/.265/.389, an 83 wRC+ with 19 home runs. His .265 on-base percentage ranked 129th among 130 qualified major league hitters, ahead of only Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
After making $17 million in 2022, Bellinger was eligible for salary arbitration for a fourth time this winter. MLB Trade Rumors projected the outfielder to make $18 million in 2023. The Dodgers deemed that too high given Bellinger’s production the past two seasons, and no other team was willing to trade for the right to pay Bellinger that much through arbitration, so he was not tendered a contract on November 18.
“Obviously we had conversations with Scott [Boras] and with other teams,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the time. “The non-tender meant that we didn’t match up on anything.”
Bellinger’s decline at the plate was stark after offseason surgery to repair a separated shoulder before the 2021 season, then he fractured the tibia of his left leg just five games into the season. He hasn’t been the same since.
Bellinger in his first four seasons had a 46.7-percent hard-hit rate and .274 isolated power, the latter ranking seventh in MLB. That fueled a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017 in which Bellinger set a NL rookie record for home runs, then two years later he won the NL MVP while winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in center field. Since the start of 2021, Bellinger’s hard-hit rate is just 36.8 percent with a .162 isolated power.
In his MVP season of 2019, Bellinger hit 47 home runs in 661 plate appearances. In three years since then, he hit 41 home runs in 1,143 plate appearances.
Friedman after non-tendering Bellinger said the Dodgers were still interested in bringing Bellinger back.
“We feel like with our staff and our resources that getting to work this offseason, we have a real chance of working with him to help get him back on track,” Friedman said. “But he gets to go out and make the best decision for him and his family, and we’ll see where that ends up.”
One of 23 entrants in our True Blue LA free agent crowdsource correctly picked the Cubs for Bellinger’s next home. Kudos, Cole Mitchem.
Bellinger in six seasons with the Dodgers hit .248/.332/.487, a 116 wRC+ with 152 home runs in 745 games.