Cody Bellinger returned to town this past weekend as the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the Chicago Cubs for the first time since the slugger's departure. As expected, the 2019 NL MVP was given a warm welcome by home crowd and put together a really good series as well.
Bellinger robbed Jason Heyward of a two-run homer in the second game of the series and followed that up with a solid Sunday that included a moonshot off of Julio Urías. Cubs fans were hoping that this series could be the catalyst for Bellinger to turn it around and have a bounce-back campaign.
It looks like his revenge series at Dodger Stadium may have sparked something, as Bellinger put together the first five-hit game of his career on Monday night against the Oakland Athletics. Bellinger is now slashing .310/.369/.517 with three home runs and 10 RBI. He has struck out in only 13.8% of his plate appearances, which is down from his 27.3% clip last season.
Will Bellinger keep up this level of production throughout the entire season? History tells us he won't. The season is so young and a good 3-4 game stretch for the former MVP is doing some heavy lifting for his overall numbers. He was hitting .238 with a .703 OPS entering the Dodgers series on Friday.
That being said, it's still worth questioning why the Dodgers moved on from Bellinger when they could have brought him back in his final year of arbitration. Sure, the team had James Outman and we stand by him being the better overall option for the team, but Bellinger still could have found a place on the Dodgers roster.
Cody Bellinger is starting to make the Dodgers look foolish for non-tendering him
Non-tendering Bellinger made sense when it was believed that the Dodgers were going to go under the luxury tax threshold to reset the penalty in preparation of pursuing Shohei Ohtani next offseason. The only problem is the team didn't even do that. Instead, the Dodgers decided to go $13 million over the luxury tax threshold this season with middling additions.
Having to pay Trevor Bauer $22.5 million certainly did not help, but it's not like that completely caught the Dodgers by surprise. The team had the ability to dip back under the tax even after paying Bauer. Instead, they spent more.
You can absolutely make the argument that Bellinger wouldn't have been worth the roughly $18 million that he would have been paid. Fine. But this is a multi-billion dollar sports franchise. We're not talking about the Kansas City Royals or the Baltimore Orioles. This is a team that can afford an $18 million flyer.
If it didn't work out, then it didn't work out. If it did, then suddenly the Dodgers would have an excellent three-man outfield of Bellinger, Outman and Mookie Betts.
Instead, the team was willing to pay $6.5 million to 35-year-old David Peralta, who has been a league-average hitter at best in recent years and is batting .194 so far in 2023. For roughly $12 million more, they could've had a 27-year-old former MVP that the fanbase loved.