The Los Angeles Dodgers had to make the tough decision of non-tendering Cody Bellinger this offseason. Bellinger is coming off of two really poor seasons at the plate, and simply was not worth the salary he would have made in arbitration in 2023.
Bellinger immediately entered free agency, and while the Dodgers seemingly remained interested in working out a cheaper deal, Bellinger seemed unwilling to return to the team on principle. Dodgers fans have been preparing themselves to watch Bellinger suit up on a different team in 2023 for weeks, but … one team in particular would’ve stung the most.
All signs pointed to Bellinger wanting a one-year, prove-it deal to up his value for next winter. This sentiment garnered the attention of a particular Dodgers rival, who are currently in the mix for Aaron Judge but looked at one year of Bellinger as a backup plan.
This is more than mere speculation around Bellinger and the Giants. Chelsea James of The Washington Post reported that the Giants were “very much” one of the teams in pursuit of Cody Bellinger on Tuesday morning, as were the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs, who also met with Bellinger via Zoom.
Luckily for Dodgers fans, Bellinger chose the Cubs by the end of the day.
Cody Bellinger signing with the Giants would’ve been heartbreaking for Dodgers fans
More smoke on Judge to the Giants, then, huh? Backup plan chooses the Cubs? Oof, Yankees.
As bad as Bellinger has been over the last two years, most fans still had no interest in seeing him go to one of the Dodgers’ biggest rivals. If Bellinger does manage to turn it around and become a productive middle-of-the-order bat, it is going to be a brutal enough watch for Dodgers fans in Chicago. The double sting was wholly unnecessary.
There still is potential in that bat. It’s very obvious that Bellinger’s issues are a mechanical thing, and if his new team can fix these mechanics, then he can absolutely be better than he has been the last two seasons.
Bellinger’s MVP season form may never return again, but there is a world in which he is a .260 hitter with 35 home runs. It could happen in Chicago. But in San Francisco, this outcome just seemed … more likely.
This kind of signing absolutely would’ve made sense for the Giants, especially as an Aaron Judge contingency plan. Farhan Zaidi is one of the best minds in the sport and is familiar with Bellinger. So is manager Gabe Kapler, who was the Dodgers’ director of farm development while Bellinger came up in the system.
There are a lot of smart hitting minds on the coaching staff (including former Dodgers minor league hitting coach Justin Viele) that have gotten the most out of other seemingly dead bats over the last two years. Bellinger could’ve been yet another success story for this San Francisco coaching staff.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a lot of money to spend this offseason but ultimately may lay low to save for a bigger target next winter.
Instead? Cubbies. Alrighty, then.