An absurd thought probably half-mumbled by the most pessimistic fan midway through 2020 has now become our reality. Earnestly depressing.
Interrupted by injury — and delayed by his recovery from a dislocated shoulder suffered in the 2020 postseason, most likely — Bellinger has posted an unbelievable .159/.237/.295 triple slash through Tuesday’s action, good for a 44 OPS+.
Plenty of fans have fallen out of love with modern, swing-and-miss baseball, but even the most ardently old-fashioned among us would have felt foolish predicting that type of production from the runaway 2019 NL MVP just two years later.
So, what happens now? Los Angeles’ budget is overflowing, and Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor and Kenley Jansen still must be dealt with this offseason. Suddenly, a Bellinger extension — with two years of arbitration left — doesn’t feel like a possibility anymore, let alone a necessity.
In fact, it’s far more likely Trea Turner gets the long-term bag. Imagine saying that to yourself in mid-May?
If the Dodgers really do decide the 2021-22 offseason is the best time to sell low on Bellinger (we think it’s far more likely he stays through ’22, but still), these three destinations could make the most sense. Some of them might even provide us a double reclamation project swap.
These 3 Cody Bellinger trades could make sense for the Dodgers.
3. Cody Bellinger to the Mets
Though the Dodgers would surely prefer to dump the final two years of Bellinger’s control into the American League instead, Steve Cohen’s New York Mets certainly have a similar number of reclamation projects to exchange, as well as a gaping hole in right field created by the likely departure of Michael Conforto.
Second baseman Jeff McNeil’s been playing a good deal of left lately while Javier Baéz is in town, and the Puerto Rican slugger feels like a solid culture fit for the Mets moving forward, too (a stunning phrase to drop just a few weeks after he flashed the thumbs down to the entire fan base). Let’s say the Mets extend Francisco Lindor’s buddy and get a full-strength Brandon Nimmo back to man center.
That would leave both Dominic Smith and JD Davis out of a job — Dodgers fans, take your pick! Both would require the attachment of a mid-range prospect, too (sorry, the star power of Bellinger’s name is simply too strong to entertain a one-for-one swap), but both hitters have been relatively competent of late.
Smith, still just 26, hit .316 with a .993 OPS in 2020, finishing 13th in the MVP voting before losing his starting job (as the NL DH disappeared) this year. Now, he’s slogging through an uncharacteristic 85 OPS+ campaign without a leg to stand on. Presuming baseball emerges from their offseason discussions with a universal DH reinstalled, his bat could be a coup if the Dodgers could make him comfortable.
Davis? His defense is also quite questionable, but he’s got a .298 average, 1.1 WAR, and 137 OPS+ in just 168 at-bats this season. The swing-and-miss is there, but typically, so is the pop. Just Dingers is controlled through 2024, one year longer than Bellinger.
Add on, say, No. 14 prospect RHP Junior Santos. Do we have a deal?