Cubs: A Cody Bellinger signing would do more harm than good
With reports indicating the Los Angeles Dodgers might be ready to move on from former National League MVP Cody Bellinger, there’s been plenty of speculation when it comes to the Cubs making a potential run at his services this winter.
I thought I’d offer my take on why adding Bellinger to the Cubs, in my opinion, is a step backwards for the front office. It starts with simple numbers: while Bellinger’s name is synonymous with his MVP season back in 2019, he really hasn’t returned to form since.
First off, yes, Bellinger has slashed a career .248/.332/.487 in a Dodgers uniform. Those numbers, unfortunately, are extremely top heavy given the fact that his three best years were his first three years in the league. Since 2020, Bellinger has slashed just .203/.272/.376 in 1,032 at-bats. So not only have his numbers been extremely down since that time, but his contract itself leaves much to be desired. He made $17 million in arbitration this year, so Los Angeles was most definitely paying for past performance.
Here’s my issue with signing Bellinger. You sign this guy, say, on a one-year prove-it deal for 2023. Say he has a bad year, you’re wasting your money on a long-shot reclamation project. Now, say Bellinger gets back to 2019 form; he’s obviously going to want to test the market at that point and more than likely leave anyway. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re the Cubs. However, that isn’t even the biggest elephant in the room if you’re thinking about Chicago landing the former superstar.
Cubs can’t block outfield prospects with a guy like Cody Bellinger
Signing Bellinger, when you have both Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario waiting in the wings pretty much blocks both young outfield prospects for 2023 and keeps them stuck in the minors. If I’m bringing up Davis or Canario, I don’t want to limit them to a bench role. I want them out there every day getting acclimated and adjusting to major league pitching so they can be as effective as soon as possible.
The Cubs already have Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ locked into right and left field for next season. Signing Bellinger to man center (and probably get some reps at first, as well) while holding back your young core equates to taking a flyer on a guy who hasn’t been above league average for three years now and is counterproductive for the growth of the farm. The only way you can say Bellinger would be a fantastic signing is A) if he got back to that 2019 form where he batted .305 with 47 home runs and 115 RBI, and B) Chicago made it clear they won’t take reps away from young guys should Bellinger once again struggle in 2023.
If the Cubs really want to compete in 2023, they can afford to leave center field as it is with a mixture of perhaps Davis, Canario and Christopher Morel. Address needs elsewhere such as signing or trading for an ace pitcher, getting that shortstop and even a Jose Abreu to platoon first base with Matt Mervis.
A lineup (hypothetically) consisting of Nico Hoerner, Trea Turner, Ian Happ, Jose Abreu and Seiya Suzuki is a great place to start if you’re looking to play meaningful games in October. Address center field at the trade deadline if you’re not getting the production you’d hoped for out of internal options. The young prospects deserve a chance to show what they’re made of first.