Whether the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to acknowledge their problem or not, the team currently has a power vacuum occupying Cody Bellinger’s roster spot.
Bellinger, a former NL MVP whose prize-winning campaign feels more “former” every year, followed up his unabashedly goofy 2021 season (44 OPS+, .165 average, 10 homers, 94 strikeouts in 315 at-bats) with a 2022 didn’t do much to lower last year’s raised eyebrows.
After inking a one-year, $17 million deal to avoid arbitration prior to 2022, Bellinger is once again a hot non-tender candidate after his follow-up season was well below-average (78 OPS+, pop those balloons).
For what it’s worth, Andrew Friedman sounded like a man who wanted to bring Bellinger back yet again for 2023 in a recent check-in at the GM Meetings. At what cost, though? Surely, even someone in charge of the Dodgers’ payroll is done attempting to raise Bellinger’s salary year-over-year after the output he’s received since 2019.
Regardless of whether Bellinger returns to the fray, he’ll need to battle it out for playing time in an outfield he once anchored, but is now weighing down. AJ Pollock, viewed as a luxury item when he was shipped out for Craig Kimbrel, would’ve brought much-needed power and stability to the roster in 2022.
In 2023, the Dodgers could keep Bellinger in the fold, but move Mookie Betts to center field and use top prospect James Outman as a starter if the team wants to go internal. They could also obtain an available 30-homer threat with solid athleticism via trade, if the Brewers are open to helping their recent rivals.
Could Dodgers pursue Hunter Renfroe in Brewers trade?
Renfroe has done nothing but mash since the Rays obtained him from the Padres and promised they didn’t care about his swings and misses, as long as he sent the ball a long way when he connected.
If obtained, he’d save the Dodgers ~$6 million on the type of cash Bellinger pocketed in 2022, and would presumably provide them something closer to a median between the 2019 superhuman version of Belli and the current swing-and-miss specialist.
The number of teams Renfroe’s played for recently could be a red flag, but the Red Sox certainly missed him in 2022 when they pocketed two prospects instead of paying his rising arbitration cost. If the Brewers are worried about competing in 2023 and are looking to become the fourth consecutive fringe contender to decide Renfroe’s salary is where they’d be best-served to save money, the Dodgers could swoop in and collect a still-solid asset.
Or they could run back Bellinger, supplement him James Outman/Miguel Vargas, and use the cash saved on Jacob deGrom. You know. Options.