The Chicago Cubs have a need in centerfield this offseason as the organization's top prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong, is still one season away from the Major League level and the team does have the intention of upgrading from the Christopher Morel and Rafael Ortega tandem that primarily manned the position for the team last season. Heightening the Cubs' need to add a centerfielder this offseason is the fact that two of the team's top prospects, Alexander Canario and Brennan Davis, will be entering the 2023 season with injury concerns.
The aforementioned Crow-Armstrong is the reason why the Cubs do not need a long-term answer at the centerfield position this offseason and likely will be the reason why they stay out of the market for free-agent outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The Cubs are in need of a short-term solution in centerfield and the solution is likely to be one that sees improved defensive play. That is the reason why former National League MVP Cody Bellinger appears to be towards the top of the Cubs' free-agent wish list.
Bellinger is not a free agent yet as the Los Angeles Dodgers have until Friday to determine whether or not they will tender the former Rookie of the Year a contract for the 2023 season. With Bellinger's offensive numbers having a drastic regression since 2019, there has been an expectation that the Dodgers will forego paying the outfielder an estimated $18 million for 2023 and opt to non-tender him on Friday.
The Chicago Cubs may have to trade for Cody Bellinger ahead of the non-tender deadline on Friday.
In what may be a calculated leak, the Dodgers insist that they have not reached a decision on Bellinger.
Prior to the Dodgers making an official decision on Bellinger's status for the 2023 season, it is in their best interest to maintain that they still have belief in the 27-year-old. The reason is that it might force a team like the Cubs, who appear to have Bellinger prioritized, to jump the market and complete a trade with the Dodgers. Such an approach would guarantee that the Cubs land their centerfield target without the risk of other teams swooping in and signing Bellinger if he reaches free agency on Friday.
The Cubs, if a trade is completed, would be on the hook for the approximate-$18MM that Bellinger is set earn and that would be about $6MM more than he would likely get on a short-term deal in free agency. Logic suggests that would be an overpay but for a big-market team that isn't at $100MM in active payroll commitments for the 2023 season, it is a risk they should be willing to take.