Cubs To Re-Signal Cody Bellinger

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Considered one of free company’s high hitters reached an settlement in a single day, as middle fielder Cody Bellinger is in settlement with the Cubs on a three-year, $80MM deal per Jeff Passan of ESPN. Per Passan, the deal contains opt-outs following the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Passan provides that the deal is barely frontloaded, with Bellinger making $30MM in 2024 and 2025 with a $20MM wage in 2026.

Bellinger returns to the Cubs after signing a one-year take care of the membership final winter and delivering a wonderful platform marketing campaign. In 556 journeys to the plate, the 28-year-old slashed .307/.356/.525 with 26 dwelling runs and 20 stolen bases whereas splitting time between middle area and first base for Chicago. That efficiency earned Bellinger a Silver Slugger award and a top-10 end in NL MVP voting and seemingly left him poised to money on this winter with a serious contract. MLBTR ranked Bellinger because the #2 free agent on this 12 months’s class behind solely two-way famous person Shohei Ohtani, predicting a 12-year, $264MM deal for the outfielder in our annual Top 50 MLB free agents checklist.

That prediction proved to land nicely over the place Bellinger wound up signing. Whereas Bellinger entered the winter with loads of huge market golf equipment seemingly within the working for his providers together with the Giants, Yankees, and Blue Jays, every pivoted in different instructions all through the month of December: San Francisco landed KBO star Jung Hoo Lee to patrol middle, Juan Soto was shipped to the Bronx to fill the left-handed void of their outfield combine, and the Blue Jays modified course after lacking out on Shohei Ohtani to as a substitute give attention to smaller offers for gamers similar to Kevin Kiermaier and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. That left Bellinger with few clear suitors exterior of the incumbent Cubs, although his free company continued into Spring Coaching as his camp held out for a long run deal whereas the Cubs and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer remained steadfast of their persistence. Finally, Chicago was rewarded for its persistence, because the membership will retain Bellinger’s providers for a minimum of the 2024 marketing campaign on a comparatively low-cost deal much like the three-year, $105MM deal fellow Boras Company shopper Carlos Correa signed with the Twins two offseasons in the past.

Quite a lot of elements past his comparatively small variety of suitors probably contributed to Bellinger choosing a short-term deal. Glorious as he was in 2023, the slugger struggled badly whereas contending with shoulder points and a fractured fibula throughout the 2021 and ’22 seasons. Although he managed to take the sector for 900 plate appearances throughout the 2 seasons, he hit a paltry .193/.256/.355 throughout that point, a far cry from the profession .273/.364/.567 slash line he entered the 2021 season with that earned him Rookie of the 12 months and MVP honors in 2017 and 2019.

Whereas Bellinger’s sturdy and wholesome 2023 marketing campaign actually helped to assuage the issues introduced on by his dismal campaigns within the prior two seasons, a have a look at his superior metrics reveals some trigger for concern that the 28-year-old’s 2023 marketing campaign might not be totally sustainable. Whereas Bellinger’s career-best batting common final season was supported by a career-low 15.6% strikeout price, it was additionally propped up by a .319 BABIP that eclipsed his profession .277 mark getting into the 2023 season by greater than 40 factors.

That leap in good batted ball fortune got here regardless of unusually low contact high quality peripherals. Per Statcast, Bellinger’s common exit velocity, barrel price, and Laborious-Hit share have been all nicely under common, touchdown within the twenty second, twenty seventh, and tenth percentile respectively amongst certified main leaguers. Taken collectively, these peripheral numbers left Bellinger with a roughly league common xwOBA of simply .330 final 12 months, 40 factors under his glorious .370 wOBA. Between his pronounced struggles in latest seasons and the regarding peripherals underlying his 2023 return to type, it’s not a whole shock that Bellinger would land a short-term, opt-out heavy deal that preserves flexibility quite than a prolonged deal that maximizes assure.

Such a contract may set Bellinger up for a way more important payday sooner or later. As famous by MLBTR’s Steve Adams in his recent look at the potential of a short-term deal for Bellinger, the slugger is unusually younger for a free agent and, as such, could also be uniquely fitted to a short-term association. If Bellinger can keep the same degree of manufacturing to his 2023 rebound, he’ll be a close to lock to choose out of the remaining two years and $50MM on his deal and return to free company, the place he can be advertising his age-29 marketing campaign and be unimpeded by the Qualifying Provide, which the Cubs prolonged to Bellinger this winter.

Within the meantime, Bellinger will return to Chicago, the place he instantly improves the membership’s lineup and odds of competition in a crowded NL Central dramatically. Bellinger’s 134 wRC+ and .525 slugging led all Cubs hitters with a minimum of 100 journeys to the plate final 12 months, whereas he ranked fourth when it comes to on-base share. The slugger additionally supplies a much-needed lefty bat to a lineup who enhances righty hitters within the lineup similar to Dansby Swanson, Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel, and Nico Hoerner. Along with offering the membership’s lineup with doubtlessly impactful offense, Bellinger’s versatility affords the Cubs flexibility as they give the impression of being to include their younger hitters into the large league lineup.

Infielder Michael Busch is prone to enter the season because the membership’s common first baseman after the membership acquired him from the Dodgers in a deal final month, leaving Bellinger to start the season because the membership’s on a regular basis choice in middle area. With that being mentioned, high prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong lurks after making his huge league debut final September and sports activities 80-grade protection in middle area. The membership’s reunion with Bellinger takes stress off Crow-Armstrong, who went hitless in 19 plate appearances throughout his cup of espresso final fall, to instantly produce on the huge league degree and permits the Cubs to proceed his improvement at Triple-A to open the 12 months. Ought to Crow-Armstrong show himself able to tackle the on a regular basis job in middle earlier than the top of the 12 months, Bellinger may shift to an outfield nook, first base, and even DH relying on the well being and manufacturing of the remainder of the lineup.

The reunion with Bellinger probably serves as a capstone for an offseason that noticed Chicago additionally land left-hander Shota Imanaga and veteran reduction arm Hector Neris in free company. Membership chairman Tom Ricketts recently indicated that the membership was unlikely to exceed the Aggressive Stability Tax threshold this winter, and RosterResource tasks the membership for a $234MM payroll in 2024 for CBT functions, lower than $3MM under the primary $237MM threshold. Meaning a reversal of the stance can be almost obligatory for the membership to make additional additions this winter, barring a commerce that clears wage elsewhere on the roster.





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