Cody Bellinger: Former MVP rejoins the Chicago Cubs in a Rom-Com ending

Finally, Cody Bellinger has a home for the 2024 season and possibly beyond. In the enthralling who-blinks-first contest that has kept the baseball world intrigued during the offseason, Bellinger signed a shorter-than-expected three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs that could be worth up to $ 80 million.

Following two dreadful final seasons with the Dodgers, the left-handed slugger rebuilt his reputation with a 27-home run, .307/.356/.525 season, which ranked him as the 14th-best offensive player last year, just ahead of luminaries like Bryce Harper, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Austin Riley.

The Dodgers years

In six years with the Dodgers, Bellinger won Rookie of the Year, MVP, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, but it was the 66 OPS+ (with 100 being league average) between 2021-2022 that made his stay in Los Angeles untenable.

The former MVP was projected to receive an $18-million salary for 2023 through arbitration, which LA decided was too much based on his production and injury history.

And so, in November 2022, Bellinger, still only 27 years old, hit free agency.

Pastures new

Despite his youth, the market was slim. Bellinger’s power had dried up, strikeouts spiralled, and apart from still offering good defence at first or centre, it looked like the skill set that produced 8.6 WAR in 2019 had vanished forever.

Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, unsurprisingly claimed the player had as many as “11 or 12” suitors, although, as MLB Trade Rumors recalls, there was only interest from the Blue Jays, Giants, and Rockies.

But there is an old adage that there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal, so the Cubs signing Bellinger for $12.5 million was never likely to be a disaster, even if he slashed .193/.256/.355, as he had over his final two seasons in LA.

However, the move was inspired for both the Cubs and the player. Toby Bellringer, as he is known on the Bat Flips & Nerds podcast, was the most potent bat in a Chicago line-up that saw them fall just one game short of the playoffs. 

The 28-year-old declined the mutual option with the Cubs at the end of the season and hit free agency again, but this time on his terms and with a $200+ million contract in his grasp. Although, as Baseball Savant nerds point out, there is a lack of power in Bellinger’s profile that makes a long-term deal seem risky.

With almost the entire baseball media presuming a reunion with the Cubs was inevitable, Boras kept negotiations active into spring training, presumably encouraging spluttering juggernauts like the Yankees, Mets, or Phillies that they would benefit from a versatile centre field upgrade.

But like all good Rom-Coms, the couple destined to be together from the very beginning left it until the final scene to provide the conclusion that everyone wanted.

According to Jeff Passan, Bellinger will receive opt-outs after the first and second years of the deal. He will earn $30 million this season, $30 million in 2025 (if he doesn’t opt out) and $20 million in 2026 (if he doesn’t opt out after the second year).

Although it is a long way from the guaranteed $200 million contract that Bellinger and Boras wanted, it feels like a win-win situation for both club and player. And it certainly improves Chicago’s chances of clinching the NL Central.

Article by @GavTramps. Want to share your baseball opinions in 2024 with a Bat Flips & Nerds audience of 10,000+? Click on the “Write for us” link above.

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