The expectation in recent weeks was that after failing to convince Shohei Ohtani to spur the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Toronto Blue Jays had become the favorite for Chicago Cubs free agent center fielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger.
It's been well documented that Bellinger is seeking a deal north of $200MM and the expectation was that the Blue Jays would be desperate enough to make that deal. Well, that expectation may no longer be a reality after the Blue Jays' signing on Tuesday.
Kiermaier was the Blue Jays' starting center fielder during the 2023 season and at $10.5MM, it's likely that Toronto envisions him in the same role for 2024.
Kiermaier's signing likely doesn't make it a certainty that the Blue Jays are out on Bellinger but it may suggest that the 2023 National League Comeback Player of the Year is not a high priority for the team. If that's the case, the idea of Bellinger returning to the Cubs continues to look likelier with each passing day.
Nightengale's wording does make it seem like the Cubs may have more of an urgency to sign Bellinger than the Blue Jays. In addition, it's the first time since the start of the off-season that the idea of the Cubs bringing back Bellinger may be the likeliest of outcomes.
That belief would check out with what the thinking was at the start of the off-season. The idea was that the Cubs would first need Bellinger to test the free-agent market and if there was a team that jumped his market and met his asking price, then the Cubs would thank him for his efforts during the 2023 season and move in a different direction. That hasn't happened and it would seem that teams may not be willing to meet Bellinger's asking price as the calendar will soon flip to 2024, putting the Cubs in an ideal spot to bring back their top offensive contributor from last season.