Not too long ago at the general managers meetings in Las Vegas, Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman hopped on MLB Network to talk about Cody Bellinger’s arbitration situation. He claimed the Dodgers still very much believed in Belli’s talent, and spoke as if the Dodgers were going to tender him a contract for 2023.
A week later, Bellinger was non-tendered after the Dodgers determined it wasn’t worth paying him the ~$18 million he was due for the 2023 season. LA expressed interest in re-signing the slugger, but now with widespread interest in free agency (coupled with the kind of act a player can interpret as “disrespect”), there’s little reason for Bellinger to return at a discounted price.
Honestly, fans thought there might be a more heartfelt message/response to this situation from Friedman and the Dodgers … but there really wasn’t. It was very surface-level and somewhat corporate. (You can read more here via the LA Times, subscription required.)
That’s all we got? After six seasons, a Rookie of the Year award, NL MVP award, Gold Glove award, Silver Slugger award, two All-Star appearances and a World Series victory?
It’s particularly bizarre because there was hardly any disdain for Bellinger among the fanbase. Dodgers supporters were rooting for him to turn it around. Every single time it looked like he was about to, there was an outpouring of encouragement.
Andrew Friedman’s response to Dodgers non-tendering Cody Bellinger is nothing
To make matters worse, the Dodgers had to have known Bellinger was never going to return following a non-tender because his agent is Scott Boras, who famously leaves teams in the dust who aren’t offering his client what he feels is proper value.
Boras will continue to harp on the “talent that’s in there” and the previous success Bellinger’s had to get him to the point where he was earning nearly $20 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility. And if he’s signing a one-year prove-it deal, which reportedly could be the case, he’s going to spend a majority of his time testing the market for Bellinger among teams in dire need of outfield help instead of seeing what the Dodgers might be willing to pay after initiating the spiral in price.
Additionally, Friedman noted the “$233 million competitive balance tax threshold” as a factor in the Dodgers’ decision to cut Bellinger loose. After Bellinger was non-tendered, the team now has $176 million against the CBT threshold. Had Bellinger stayed on board at the projected price, the Dodgers still would’ve been under $195 million and possessed about $50 million in spending power if they really wanted to avoid the first tax mark (which they won’t, anyway!). This figure also doesn’t include Clayton Kershaw’s rumored $20 million salary for 2023.
It’s hard to believe that was a legitimate driving force in (likely) ending Bellinger’s Dodgers tenure. A team with endless resources finally drawing the line here? They willingly paid $13.5 million to Max Muncy when they didn’t have to, and he was essentially Bellinger Lite in 2022.
Maybe Belli returns. Maybe he leaves and continues his poor play. Maybe none of what we’re talking about here matters at all.
But the Dodgers usually combine the “business” and “human” elements of the game fairly well. This time, with Bellinger, it really feels like they didn’t.