When the Cubs went out and brought in former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Cody Bellinger on a one-year deal, ownership and the front office had high hopes - but what he wound up doing exceeded even the team's wildest expectations.
If not for a month-long IL stint, Bellinger may have found himself in the MVP conversation this season, as well. He finished the year with 26 home runs and 20 stolen bases, along with 95 runs and 97 RBI in just 130 games - all while playing elite defense in center field and at first base. There are only a handful of player in the game capable of doing what he does on a daily basis and that fact will drive his asking price sky-high in free agency.
Cody Bellinger is an obvious fit for Giants, Yankees and Cubs
In an ideal world, the Cubs not only bring Bellinger back on a long-term deal, but find another middle-of-the-order bat to pair with him in 2024. But the front half of that equation alone won't be easy. The stiffest competition for the two-time All-Star's services could come from the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees, the latter of which is looking for a reset after missing the postseason and narrowly avoiding finishing last in the AL East.
There's been smoke surrounding Bellinger and the Yankees dating back to the trade deadline, before the Cubs switched lanes and went from sellers to buyers in July. Now, it's going to come down to years and dollars - both of which New York could leverage to overpower Chicago, a club that has flat-out refused to give out decade-long deals to this point.
Meanwhile, the Giants are looking for a new manager and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi could be next unless he makes a big splash this offseason and the team returns to form in 2024. Don't forget - the Giants were rumored to have been at the finish line with both Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa in free agency, only to have deals fall apart for various reasons.
The fact that two of San Francisco's NL West rivals advanced to the postseason hasn't helped Zaidi's standing with the fans - and adding Bellinger, a former Dodger, with the potential for him to haunt Los Angeles for years to come - is surely enticing for a team with a lot of money at its disposal.
All this to say: it won't be easy for the Cubs to bring Cody Bellinger back into the fold. Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts will be pushed to a very uncomfortable space, both in terms of total value and the number of years he will likely command as a 28-year-old star. It's possible, but it's going to take this front office doing something it has, to this point, avoided doing.