The Los Angeles Dodgers made the controversial decision during the offseason to non-tender Cody Bellinger and allow him to sign with another team in free agency. To see a former MVP from four years ago get non-tendered and leave his original ball club was groundbreaking.
At the end of the day, Bellinger was not worth his projected salary after being one of the worst hitters in the majors last season. Plus, the decision was made easier by the fact that the Dodgers knew they had a stud left-handed-hitting outfielder waiting to play in center field.
James Outman had a meteoric rise in the Dodgers farm system last season, putting together an incredible year that included two cyles (in the same week!). With how bad Bellinger had been the previous two seasons, the notion that Outman was going to be an improvement was not an absurd one.
Any Dodgers fans that were still skeptical of Outman being an improvement over Bellinger were probably won over on Opening Day. After scoring the first run of the season following a walk, Outman proceeded to slug the team's first (of many) home runs in the 2023 season.
Dodgers' James Outman homers on Opening Day, Cody Bellinger goes hitless for Cubs.
The statistical comparison between Outman and Bellinger is going to be interesting to track this season with the former already holding the advantage. Bellinger went 0-3 with a walk in his Chicago Cubs debut from the clean-up position.
Meanwhile, Outman stuck with a fastball on the outside of the plate and drove it to left center into the home run seats. Dodgers fans aren't used to seeing their center fielder be able to catch up 94 on the black, let alone hit it out of the park.
Outman's advantage stems further than just his Opening Day showcase, though. The slugging outfielder was one of the best hitters for the Dodgers in spring training, slashing .283/.391/.566 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Meanwhile, the 2019 NL MVP slashed .200/.294/.467 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
Advantage, Outman. Bellinger will look to even the score in two weeks when the Cubs come to town.