Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman strategically waited this long into the year to better articulate the reasoning behind the team non-tendering Cody Bellinger back in November.
He's been asked about it many times, but was mostly vague and not informative. Everyone assumed it was a money thing because Belli was owed a salary in the $18 million range as he entered his final year of arbitration eligibility.
We're sure that played a role, but Friedman revealed (or at least hinted at) on MLB Now that the Dodgers didn't really believe in Bellinger bouncing back with them in 2023.
He of course all but officially said those words, but in detailing the extensive work the Dodgers' assistants put in with Bellinger (and the energy Bellinger tirelessly exerted) as well as the "change of scenery" aspect of it all playing a role (from Friedman's perspective), this relationship was over.
Pretty harsh without being directly harsh, if you ask Dodgers fans, especially with all that Bellinger gave to the franchise.
Dodgers pretty much didn't believe in a Cody Bellinger bounce-back season
Before Bellinger's injury, it appeared as if Friedman was right. The slugger was hitting .271/.337/.493 with 29 runs scored, 7 homers, 20 RBI, 9 stolen bases and a 124 OPS+ across his first 37 games while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Unfortunately, a knee injury suffered on May 15 as he attempted to make a diving catch halted his successful start to the year in its tracks. He's expected to miss a couple more weeks, too, which has certainly helped quiet the discourse surrounding the Dodgers letting him go. James Outman's incredible first six weeks of the 2023 campaign helped as well.
One would assume the Dodgers' decision was a tough one on Bellinger. He was largely mum on the topic throughout the offseason. He ditched the Cubs' spring training trip to Camelback Ranch. He dodged the media for the most part until the beginning of the regular season.
Maybe he got the idea that this was how the Dodgers really felt about his future outlook? And that has to be discouraging for a player entering his age-27 season with plenty of prime years ahead of him.
The Dodgers are cruising along just fine at the moment, but if Bellinger can replicate anything close to his 2017-2019 form in 2023 (once he returns from his injury) and beyond, the conversation will shift to making LA uncomfortable -- just like Belli was when his career was upended a few months ago.