Should the Cubs prioritize Bellinger over a better starting rotation?

With many directions the Chicago Cubs can still go this winter, we ask who exactly can bring the team the most success in 2024.

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

By now, we're all well aware of the conundrum that is working with Scott Boras regarding one of his clients. The top four, or even five, if you include J.D. Martinez, are still available and are now the five most sought-after players on the market.

The Chicago Cubs remain very much connected to Cody Bellinger, and even if we're forced to endure this agonizing waiting game of who will blink first, the belief is still that he will be playing ball on the North side again in 2024. Now, if you're only getting one player, is adding a bat like Bellinger smarter for the team than adding another bonified stud starting pitcher?

If Bellinger's fantastic 2023 campaign was nothing more than a mirage, adding Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery to the front of the starting rotation may give the Cubs more wins this season. Snell is fresh off a Cy Young in which he was dominant in all facets, and Montgomery has been a solid starting pitcher in the league, recording a 3.48 ERA in the past three seasons combined.

My biggest concern with Snell is that although both his 2018 and 2023 Cy Young seasons were remarkable, and his numbers overall in between aren't terrible, 2023 was the first time since 2018 that he's even reached 130 innings. If you get the 2.25 ERA version of Snell throughout 180 innings, he's a better player than Cody Bellinger. Let's break it down further and understand why, even though you can never have enough good pitching, in this case, we should still be confident in what Bellinger can bring to the plate in 2024.

Chicago Cubs: Prioritize better pitching over Bellinger this winter?

No. I'm bored reading about advanced batting ball Metrics for Bellinger in 2024. Many people have heard that phrase, and it's all they talk about regarding Bellinger and his price tag. Understandably, his injury history could have easily hindered his swing and ability to confidently swing the bat without risk of reinjury for a couple of years. In 2023, Bellinger reinvented himself and his approach at the plate, opting for more contact over power in certain situations. Don't buy into his ZiPS for 2024 as if they're fact because his ZiPS in 2023 missed the mark by quite a bit:

Bellinger 2023 ZiPS: .230/.309/.406, 18 HR, 65 RBIs, .176 ISO, .274 BABIP, .304 wOBA, 2.1 WAR

Bellinger actual 2023: .307/.356/.525, 26 HRs, 97 RBIs, .218 ISO, .319 BABIP, .370 wOBA, 4.1 WAR

You can't always rely on these projections, as fascinating as they can be, as if they are law. Typically, ZiPS is an excellent indicator of what a player may do in the coming season. Still, in this case, the mark was missed so badly that anything regarding Bellinger from a projection standpoint is not something I'm taking with more than a grain of salt. Regarding his change of approach at the plate, Gregory Zumach and Bryan Smith said it best on Twitter:

The entire thread is worth reading regarding not being as fearful of Bellinger's batted-ball metrics. More importantly, circling back to Snell and Montgomery, the Cubs still have several prospects on the way, such as Cade Horton, Ben Brown, the full emergence of Jordan Wicks, etc., that another top starting pitcher just isn't as important as getting more power and offensive production into the lineup.

Jed Hoyer essentially has two jobs, make the Cubs good, and put butts in the seats. Snell is miles away from Bellinger regarding fan favoritism in Chicago. One way to make the Cubs good and to fill Wrigley Field to the brim is to bring back the one many are turning to as a team leader.

The Cubs have been without a face of the franchise for some time. Bellinger playing good baseball is just that for the team, and if he stays healthy, there's no real reason to be overly concerned with what he can do moving forward.

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