Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
Since bringing home National League MVP hardware back in 2019, things have really gone off the rails for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger. So much so that he looks like a very real non-tender candidate for the second time in as many years – which raises an intriguing possibility for a team like the Chicago Cubs.
Baseball Reference has Bellinger at 1.4 bWAR this year, while Fangraphs pegs him at 1.3 fWAR, so there’s not a lot of discrepancy. Give or take, last winter, teams paid out approximately $8.5 million/WAR. Knowing that, all you have to do is look at Bellinger and his $17 million salary this year to know he’s overpaid, albeit not as badly as I initially assumed.
Regardless, he’s set to pass through arbitration for the third and final time this winter and given how shrewd Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers front office are, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them cut ties with the former MVP and Rookie of the Year, instead choosing to allocate those dollars elsewhere.
Chicago looks poised to head into the offseason with tremendous outfield depth at the highest levels of the organization. Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki and Christopher Morel look like they have the three starting spots locked down at the big league level, although you could make the case for Morel as a utility player just as easily.
Next year, you’re going to see top prospects Brennen Davis and Pete Crow-Armstrong at the Triple-A level, the latter likely in the back half of the year, with the former sitting on the cusp of his big league debut now that he’s healthy. Behind those two, there are a ton of guys on the rise in a hurry, including Alexander Canario, Owen Caissie and Kevin Alcantara. That doesn’t even take into account someone like Nelson Velazquez, who’s been essentially a league average in his first taste of big league action.
How does Cody Bellinger make sense for a team like the Cubs?
So why go out and bring in someone like Bellinger? If you truly believe in the strides the organization has made in terms of developing position players and helping them make sustainable adjustments, adding a guy who has the hardware that Bellinger does who’s heading into his age-28 season is definitely intriguing. He’s also still very clearly a plus defender in the outfield, which is always helpful, especially when bringing in a guy who’s struggled offensively.
Even with the addition of Franmil Reyes, this team doesn’t have a whole lot in the prodigious power department. That grows truer should Willson Contreras walk in free agency. Throw in the fact Happ is entering his final year of control in 2023 and it quickly becomes clear this roster still lacks established top-shelf power hitters.
Bellinger hasn’t showcased the jaw-dropping power he once did, at least not in a few years, but you have to think that somewhere in there, he’s still capable of producing at a high level. I’m not saying you need to go out and pay him north of $20 million a year, because you don’t, but if interest is weak and he’s looking to try and re-establish himself next year, it’s, at the very least, a conversation worth having.