It feels like Cody Bellinger or bust for the Cubs after the Shohei Ohtani signing

Barring an unforeseen trade, Chicago's ways to improve the offense are growing more scarce by the day.

Kansas City Royals v Chicago Cubs
Kansas City Royals v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

In less than a week, the top free agent bat and the top bat available on the trade market have found news homes, with Juan Soto going to the Yankees and Shohei Ohtani signing a record-shattering 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers.

With Japanese superstar starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto expected to wind up in the Big Apple one way or another, just how exactly Jed Hoyer plans on improving a Cubs team that missed out on the postseason thanks to a brutal September collapse in 2023 is a glaring question.

Rhys Hoskins isn't going to be enough - at least not on his own - to shore up the offense, although he'd be a perfect fit for Chicago at first base and a solid complimentary piece in the lineup. Right now, it feels like all roads wind up in one place: a reunion with NL Comeback Player of the Year Cody Bellinger.

Bellinger, who came to Chicago last winter after being cut loose by the Dodgers, rejuventated his career this year on the North Side, showcasing power, athleticism and an ability to outperform some batted ball metrics that didn't paint nearly as pretty of a picture as the back of his baseball card might indicate.

Still, when we closed the book on the season, Bellinger had notched the first 20/20 season of his career, tying for the team lead with 26 home runs and leading all Cubs players in RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. He gave the team Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field and at first base and proved to be a major cog in the machine for this club.

Cubs have their work cut out for them if they want to bring back Cody Bellinger in free agency

Now, though, the Cubs are probably going to have to step way outside their comfort zone if they want to bring him back (and it's hard to see how they can't while still moving the needle in the right direction). Both Toronto and San Francisco seem likely to take a run at the former MVP - with the Giants in particularly dire straits when it comes to star power after missing out on not only Ohtani, but Carlos Correa and Aaron Judge last offseason.

Yes, I suppose you could pull all the right levers on short-term deals and some combination of JD Martinez, Hoskins and perhaps a Tyler Glasnow trade could be enough to help the Cubs claim a division crown in 2024. But Bellinger feels like the easiest way to check multiple boxes - the only problem being checking those boxes is going to come with a hefty price tag.