Cody Bellinger's 2024 projections point to why Cubs may have second thoughts on a long-term deal

The Chicago Cubs trade for Michael Busch alters their path in free agency and raises questions about Cody Bellinger's future.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs trade for Michael Busch truly was a fascinating deal and one that could be compared to when the team traded for a blocked first baseman in the San Diego Padres' organization prior to the 2012 season.

While the initial thought was that Bush would be inserted as the Cubs' third baseman, the plan is for the top prospect to open the season as the team's primary first baseman.

It goes without saying that the addition of Busch to the Cubs' starting lineup likely will alter their path in free agency and that could mean less urgency in their pursuit to bring back Cody Bellinger.

While it's possible the Cubs open the 2024 season with a plan that includes Busch at first base, Bellinger in center field, and Pete Crow-Armstrong in Triple-A Iowa, their trade on Thursday may be more preparation for an official farewell to the 2023 National League Comeback Player of the Year.

To that end, FanGraphs released their 2024 ZiPS projections for the Cubs and the outlook for Bellinger may provide more reason as to why the team has reservations about a long-term deal.

Bellinger is projected to have a respectable slash line of .267/.327/.441 in 2024 but his OPS+ of 110 and 19 home runs would suggest there is no long-term value if he is serving primarily as the team's first baseman. To that end, Busch projects to have an OPS+ of 111 and 22 home runs in his first full season at the Major League level.

That's not to say that the Cubs shouldn't bring Bellinger back, if the deal is structured in a way that provides them an out in the event of regression, there is a path to the two sides finding common ground on a deal. This would hold especially true if another team such as the San Francisco Giants continues to show an unwillingness to meet Scott Boras' asking price for Bellinger.

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