Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings are taking place in sunny San Diego and things are heating up. The offseason free agent signings have been fairly quiet until this week. The Chicago Cubs ended their silence on Tuesday afternoon by signing the Dodgers’ former Centerfielder Cody Bellinger.
Both parties agreed on a one-year, $17.5 million contract. This deal makes sense for both parties. The Cubs fill an obvious hole in centerfield and Bellinger looks to reshape his career.
First, the Cubs are coming off a disappointing year where they finished with a 74-88 record. Their needs going into the offseason read more like Santa’s Christmas lists with a bunch of fantasy dreams. Nevertheless, Chicago’s front office knows they need to start spending money if they want to speed up this rebuilding process.
Centerfield was one of many positions that needed to be addressed. According to their website, the Cubs have Nelson Velazquez and Christopher Morel listed as their centerfielders on the depth chart. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of Morel with a bulk of the starts there in 2023. He had a slash line of .235/.308/.433 with 16 home runs in his rookie season with only 379 at-bats.
Despite my opinion, I think it’s safe to say we all are waiting on the arrival of potential superstar outfielders Brennen Davis and Pete Crow-Armstrong. Both of these young men are listed as the top two prospects within Chicago’s minor league system. Building a bridge until their arrival seems to have been a priority for the Cubs’ front office.
This is where we insert Cody Bellinger. Signing a one-year deal is very low risk with a player who has already accomplished much in his very short career. The 27-year-old is already a two-time All-Star, Gold Glove winner, Silver Slugger winner, the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year, 2019 NL Most Valuable Player, and 2020 World Series champion. The price tag of only $17.5 million seems like a steal.
However, most of those accolades came in the first three years of his six-year stint with the Dodgers. Between 2017-2019, Bellinger had a slash line of .278/.369/.559 with 111 home runs and 892 total bases. Sadly, the next three years tell a sad of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. His production dropped to .203/.272/.376 slash line with 41 home runs and 388 total bases.
It’s pretty safe to say that Bellinger is looking to reshape a once very promising career. Most of the questions for Bellinger are surrounded by his offensive production. Hitting at Wrigley Field could be helpful whenever the wind is deciding to blow out. This ballpark can be a launching pad for power hitters.
Defensively, there are no concerns. According to Fangraphs, the Cubs team defense in center field (2022) was the worst in baseball by Outs Above Average (-7). Bellinger will certainly be beneficial to his new team in this area by having 6 OAA last season.
Cubs manager David Ross likes the idea of bringing in this young veteran.
"“He’s good – I mean, former MVP. He’s got a track record of a lot of success and dynamic defense. He’s a really good fit from a perspective of its great defense, great base running, and a left-handed bat with the potential to have an uptick offensively if that works out.”"- GORDON WITTENMYER
In the end, the Cubs have just started spending money. Filling a hole at centerfield and Bellinger will benefit from the one-year deal as he looks to get his hitting back on track. The future could be bright for both parties assuming everything works out.