In a pair of procedural moves on Friday for the Chicago Cubs, center fielder Cody Bellinger and relief pitcher Brad Boxberger officially became free agents.
Neither move should be a complete surprise for the Cubs.
On Thursday, Bellinger was named 2023 National League Comeback Player of the Year and has positioned himself for a lucrative payday this winter. In 556 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, Bellinger slashed .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs and a wRC+ of 134.
There is no question that the Cubs will be interested in bringing Bellinger back on a long-term deal this off-season but he is also the best true position player on the free-agent market this winter. With teams such as the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees also expecting to have interest in Bellinger, there is a chance that the Cubs would need to sign Bellinger to the largest contract in franchise history if he is to return.
Veteran relief pitcher Brad Boxberger was one of the first signings that the Cubs made last winter but it was a disappointing campaign for Boxberger. Injuries limited Boxberger to 22 appearances out of the bullpen with the Cubs last season while posting an ERA of 4.95.
While the option decisions on both Bellinger and Boxberger were procedural, the two decisions that will need to be made before Monday regard Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks. Stroman holds a $21MM option for the 2024 season while the Cubs hold a $16MM option for Hendricks. For both Stroman and Hendricks, a decision will need to be made by Monday but there is an overwhelming expectation that both will be back with the team.