While many fans seemed to be expecting it after the 2022 season, it did not make the move any less surprising. The Los Angeles Dodgers actually non-tendered 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger, making him a free agent that can sign with any team in the league.
This does not mean that Bellinger’s career with the Dodgers is over. Bellinger can re-sign with Los Angeles on a cheaper contract than the $18 million+ that he was likely going to receive in arbitration. But this does open the door for another team to swoop in and pay Bellinger for his upside.
While the Dodgers might be making this room to pave the way for Aaron Judge to come to Los Angeles, there is another promising outfielder that could see an increased role in LA because of this decision.
In fact, the Dodgers may have felt comfortable with cutting ties with Bellinger knowing that they might have another version of him waiting in the wings. While it will be very hard for anyone to replicate 2017-2019 Bellinger, this exciting left-handed outfielder could still have a far bigger impact than 2020-22 Bellinger.
James Outman may be the next Cody Bellinger for the Dodgers.
To be clear, this is not a declaration that Outman is going to play at an MVP level and be one of the best players in the entire sport. What Bellinger did in 2019 was very special and expecting anyone to replicate that is simply asking yourself to be disappointed.
That being said, Outman can absolutely provide the middle-of-the-order left-handed power bat that the Dodgers were hoping Bellinger would be the last two years. Just think about how insane this lineup could have been if the Dodgers had 80% of prime Bellinger hitting in the four-spot. It would have been asinine.
Outman might be that guy. He is not going to earn the role right away but if he continues to hit at the rate he was in 2022 then the job will quickly be his. Outman had a brief stint on the big-league club and certainly made a difference, going 6-13 with two doubles, a home run and two walks.
The slugging left-handed outfielder is one of several top prospects that should be on the Opening Day roster in 2023 and will likely be in the starting lineup because of the potential that he has when he steps into the box.
In 125 games across AA and AAA, Outman slashed .294/.393/.978 with 31 home runs and 106 RBIs — even hitting for two cycles in one week. While big-league pitching is obviously tougher, these are far better numbers than Bellinger ever posted in his minor-league career.
Bellinger’s ceiling as a defensive player was that of a Gold Glover but his defensive impact was overstated by Dodgers fans in recent years. Bellinger actually ranked 32nd among 51 qualified outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved in 2022. With both plus speed and a plus arm, Outman can actually replace the defensive impact that Bellinger had in center field in 2022.
And the icing on the cake for Outman is the rule changes that are being implemented in 2023. Perhaps the biggest hole in Outman’s swing is his tendency to hit to his pull side and not use all areas of the field. With the shift being banned in 2023, Outman could have even more impressive numbers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers might opt to lose Cody Bellinger this week, and if he's non-tendered on Friday, expect these landing spots to make a play.
Potentially saying bye to Cody Bellinger certainly is sad for Dodgers fans. However, fans will quickly move on when they see James Outman starting in the outfield every night.