Today’s the day! By the end of Friday, Dodgers fans will know if the team opted to bring 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger back at a suddenly-exorbitant price for one more season, or if they chose to let him explore the market (while potentially keeping contact with him on side channels about a discount).
Man. Imagine waking up a Dodgers fan who went into a coma in 2019, and showing them this? They’d probably say, “Wait, the 2020 season was how many games long?!”
Early indications have been the Dodgers would like Bellinger to return, which is somewhat surprising given his cost and back-to-back years as a black hole in the lineup. He’s among the most tantalizing names in the current game, though, right alongside 2022 teammate Joey Gallo.
It doesn’t take a soothsayer to visualize an unlocked version of Bellinger, either. He slammed 47 home runs with a 1.035 OPS/167 OPS+ in 2019, striking out a remarkably low 108 times in 558 at-bats. Hell, he even recovered from his porous 2021 to tomahawk a high fastball into the right-field seats for a game-tying home run against the Braves in the NLCS, briefly rendering his 1.0-WAR-subtracting, .165-hitting season irrelevant.
And yet, there’s Bellinger, rightly ranked among MLB’s other non-tender candidates after two remarkably poor seasons.
The Dodgers are rightly nervous about what Bellinger could produce if they’re the foolish ones to finally let him go, but we’re going on three years now of production that ranges from “Pretty Bad Bellinger” to “The Absolute Dregs.”
If LA backtracks on their initial impulses and lets Belli walk ahead of free agency — a payday that won’t be coming in Hollywood — these three teams should be in play for the reclamation project.
3 MLB teams that could add Cody Bellinger if Dodgers non-tender him
3. Chicago Cubs
All indications are the Cubs are ready to get back into the high-end free agent bidding process this offseason — which means they can also bid on Cody Bellinger!
Kidding, of course, but signing potential breakouts who are just a tweak away is what middling rosters like the Cubs typically do. Add in Chicago’s excess money in this particular offseason, and they might have a slight advantage over all the other Sabermetric squads trying to get Bellinger rejuvenated.
The Cubs showed a willingness to live on the financial edge already this offseason when they released Jason Heyward and absorbed a $22 million loss. While no one wants to throw good money after bad, that maneuver shows the current Cubs are unafraid to take a risk in the name of roster betterment after several years of piecing non-competitive teams together.
This time around, Chicago’s reportedly among the leaders for shortstop Carlos Correa after spending heavily last offseason to lure Japanese import Seiya Suzuki to man right field at Wrigley. Combined with the emergence of 2022 All-Star Ian Happ in left, the Cubs are a center fielder away from a pretty solid outfield picture.
Bellinger may never be the 2019 vintage ever again, but rest assured, there will be plenty of pseudo-contenders linked to him the second he hits the open market. If he’s interested in leaving Cal for the Ivy League, the Cubs make sense.