Chicago Cubs Rumors: Cody Bellinger reaches free agency

Chicago Cubs
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The Chicago Cubs' primary centerfield target, Cody Bellinger, has officially reached free agency as the Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to non-tender the 2019 National League MVP. Entering the non-tender deadline on Friday, there was a possibility that the Dodgers may look to trade Bellinger ahead of the non-tender deadline at 7 pm CT on Friday night. Instead, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal confirmed that Bellinger will be non-tendered.

Considering the offensive regression that Bellinger has endured since 2019, the projected $18MM for Bellinger in 2023 was going to be a difficult pill to swallow in regard to the Dodgers' salary cap situation. As Rosenthal notes, the Dodgers likely will look into re-signing Bellinger at a team-friendly AAV but the Cubs' involvement may drive up his asking price.

Rumored Chicago Cubs target Cody Bellinger is now a free agent.

The Cubs need a centerfield upgrade this offseason but with prospects such as Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario, and Brennan Davis nearing the upper levels of the Cubs' minor league system, the team does not need a long-term answer at the position. That would be the reason why the Cubs likely will not be involved in the bidding for top free-agent centerfielder Brandon Nimmo.

The issue for the Cubs, however, is that injuries to Davis and Canario are going to prevent them from being legitimate options to start the 2023 season at the Major League level. Crow-Armstrong's estimated arrival remains 2024 despite the breakout season he achieved in the Cubs' organization during 2022. So while the Cubs definitely have to have improved centerfield play next season from a defensive standpoint, they do not need a permanent solution.

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Bellinger would be the perfect stopgap for the Cubs in centerfield next season. This is the point where it needs to be prefaced that Bellinger would not be the perfect stopgap because of the potential offensive contributions he can provide the team in 2023 but because of the defense. The Cubs do not need Bellinger to return to his 2019 offensive form as they can upgrade their offense at the shortstop and first base positions this offseason. All the Cubs need Bellinger to do is what he has done throughout his entire career, play Gold Gove-caliber defense in the outfield. Any offensive resurgence for Bellinger with the Cubs in 2023 would just be an added bonus.