The Los Angeles Dodgers parted ways with Cody Bellinger this offseason because of how much he was going to cost the team while weighing the likely production they were going to get out of him. Ultimately, the Chicago Cubs opted to take a flyer on the former MVP, signing him to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2024.
Ironically, shortly after the Dodgers non-tendered Bellinger, they went out and signed someone who was compared to Bellinger (and is also a former Cub) in Jason Heyward. He agreed to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training, as the team hoped to unlock his former All-Star potential.
It appears that the Dodgers have found something in Heyward and it's still early in spring training. Los Angeles had Heyward make changes to his swing, which started the speculation about the former first-round pick having a bigger role in 2023 than anticipated. Dodgers fans still had to see the swing in action, though. It's one thing to succeed in live BP. We need that game action.
Well, on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers, Heyward put his new swing on full display, crushing a home run against former Dodger Andrew Heaney. Heyward went 1-for-2 in the game with a walk. The sample size is impossibly small, but seeing him get off to a good start like this is encouraging.
The Dodgers fixing Jason Heyward this quickly is bad news for Cody Bellinger
The Dodgers made one tweak to Heyward's mechanics (with his hand positioning) and the results are a brand-new swing that could yield excellent results. This is a guy who has struggled immensely offensively (.606 OPS since 2021) and he may have found a solution overnight.
This doesn't mean that Heyward is suddenly going to be an MVP favorite or Silver Slugger. But if he can add an above-average presence at the plate to go with his skilled fielding, then he can be very valuable in 2023. That's the same kind of value Cody Bellinger could have brought to the table, but he simply could not fix his swing.
Bellinger had plenty of time to do so in Los Angeles. It isn't like the Dodgers didn't pour resources into him, either, as they have one of the best coaching staffs in baseball. They tried everything to fix the former MVP. It didn't work, ever since his struggles began in 2020.
To be fair to Bellinger, he too had a nice day on Wednesday to give Cubs fans some hope. After going 0-for-2 in his first spring training game, Bellinger went 2-for-3 with a double against the Mariners. We're all rooting for Belli to succeed in Chicago, but his swing still looks problematic.
Bellinger had hot stretches for the Dodgers last season with that same swing. But as we all know, over the course of the 2021 and 2022 seasons, it proved to be more detrimental than effective.
In a perfect world, both Bellinger and Heyward will come back to life in 2023 and both teams will end up happy. But the fact that Heyward so quickly made a positive adjustment that Bellinger couldn't in two years shows the former MVP might not be salvageable.