A best-case scenario with the Cubs and Cody Bellinger ends in an opt-out this fall

The goal for the reigning NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2024? Do it all over again.

Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

This isn't the outcome Cody Bellinger or his agent Scott Boras hoped for. Last winter's one-year pillow deal with the Chicago Cubs was supposed to let the former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP he was back to his old self, setting him up for a lucrative long-term deal in free agency.

Instead, suitors were scarce and Jed Hoyer's waiting game paid off, with Bellinger returning to Chicago on a three-year, $85 million deal. The contract features a pair of opt-outs, as well, with one after the 2024 season and the other after the 2025 campaign.

With Opening Day looming, it's important Cubs fans understand one thing: the best-case scenario for this relationship results in Bellinger leaving the North Side at season's end.

If Cody Bellinger opts out at the end of the year, it's a win for the Cubs

If Bellinger and Boras aren't back on the open market next winter, shopping the outfielder's services, then something went terribly wrong in 2024. Likely, it means Bellinger failed to replicate the success he found in his first year with the Cubs and the concerns over some irregular batted ball metrics have only grown larger.

It would also mean the Cubs are on the hook for two more years of a contract whose AAV far exceeds the value Bellinger is bringing to the table. This contract worked perfectly, given the circumstances, for both Hoyer and Boras because of one key element: flexibility.

Sure, Bellinger gets, at a minimum, $85 million over the next three seasons which, at least in theory, should be the prime years of his career. But if he is able to produce at a high level again in 2024, he should have no problem securing a longer-term guarantee on the open market (assuming Boras doesn't drop the ball as fantastically as he did this time around with his big-name clients).

As far as Chicago is concerned, Bellinger isn't poised to be a long-term roadblock for the organization's enviable group of outfield prospects. If he opts out (and, again, that should be the end goal for everyone here because it means he put up big numbers), guys like Pete Crow-Armstrong, Owen Caissie and others will battle it out for a spot in the Cubs outfield.

And, if for whatever reason, Bellinger is solid but unspectacular, a three-year deal isn't going to hamstring the club throughout its contention window. As we get started on a clean slate of regular season action, though, it felt timely to re-set expectations when it came to this reunion.