5 years in the past, he was the Nationwide League Rookie of the Yr. Three years in the past, he was the NL Most Worthwhile Participant. And even amid extended struggles within the couple of seasons since then, he had remained a fixture within the lineup and favourite amongst a lot of the fan base.
In recent times, few gamers have had an even bigger presence among the many Dodgers than heart fielder Cody Bellinger.
However on Tuesday, lower than three weeks after he was non-tendered by the crew and have become a free agent, the slugger’s roller-coaster tenure in Los Angeles ended.
Bellinger agreed to phrases on a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, a number of folks with data of the state of affairs instructed The Occasions’ Jorge Castillo.
The deal is value $17.5 million assured — he’ll have a wage of $12 million subsequent season, then a $5.5 million buyout if a mutual choice for 2024 isn’t picked up, which is the probably final result — making it simply barely much less profitable than the $18 million-plus Bellinger was projected to obtain via arbitration had the Dodgers tendered him a contract final month.
“Obviously when we made the decision with Cody a few weeks ago,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman mentioned in the course of the second day of the league’s winter conferences, “we knew that this was a possibility.”
Certainly, the information didn’t come as a significant shock.
Although the Dodgers had maintained curiosity in bringing Bellinger again subsequent season, a reunion at all times appeared unlikely as soon as he hit the open market.
In response to Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, the outfielder garnered curiosity from “11 to 12” groups. He obtained a number of presents for multiple season, though most well-liked a one-year deal that would enable him to rebuild his inventory and take a look at free company once more a yr from now. And ultimately, the bidding for his companies finally surpassed what the Dodgers had been keen to spend.
Bellinger will now search for a contemporary begin in Chicago — whereas the Dodgers will discover methods to interchange the most recent member of final yr’s crew to depart in free company.
“Things are going to look a little different,” supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned throughout a information convention with reporters.
Already this offseason, the Dodgers misplaced two beginning pitchers from final yr’s rotation: Tyler Anderson, who signed final month with the Angels; and Andrew Heaney, who on Tuesday reportedly agreed to a two-year, $25-million cope with the Texas Rangers (which may rise to $37 million with incentives).
Their bullpen has additionally suffered a few key defections over the past week in Chris Martin, who joined the Pink Sox on a two-year, $17.5-million deal; and Tommy Kahnle, who reportedly agreed on Tuesday to a two-year, $11.5-million contract with the New York Yankees.
Extra change may very well be on the horizon, too, with longtime third baseman Justin Turner persevering with to linger on the free-agent market.
So far, nonetheless, no departure has been extra stark than Bellinger’s. He’ll go away a gap in heart discipline that Friedman and Roberts mentioned the crew plans to handle with an addition this offseason.
“There’s some interesting players in the market that we’re continuing to have conversations about,” Friedman mentioned. “So from our standpoint, we would like to augment our group.”
To that finish, the Dodgers can have loads of choices to contemplate. After Aaron Choose — who remained unsigned as of Tuesday evening regardless of a retracted report he was headed to the San Francisco Giants — Brandon Nimmo and Andrew Benintendi headline this yr’s class of outfielders. Much less-expensive choices equivalent to Michael Conforto or Kevin Kiermaier would possibly make sense, as properly.
Internally, James Outman is the crew’s most MLB-ready outfield prospect, though he would possibly first be eased in as extra of a part-time platoon participant. Fellow prospect Miguel Vargas frolicked in left discipline final yr, however probably will see elevated enjoying time at both second or third base subsequent yr.
Nonetheless, it was only some years in the past that Bellinger was anticipated to be a cornerstone of the franchise. In his first 4 seasons, he had a .911 on-base-plus-slugging share, belted 123 residence runs and was twice chosen an All-Star. He gained a Gold Glove, was named a Silver Slugger and supplied among the most memorable moments in the course of the membership’s run to the 2020 World Sequence title.
It was throughout that postseason, nonetheless, that Bellinger injured his shoulder throughout a celebration with Kiké Hernández, requiring him to get labrum surgical procedure in the course of the offseason.
He’s seemed nothing like his previous self since, batting simply .193 with 29 residence runs within the final two years.
Boras thinks this winter may very well be a turning level for his shopper. He insisted that Bellinger is lastly rebuilding power in his shoulder. He additionally confirmed that Bellinger additionally just lately educated at Oklahoma State’s baseball facility, the place former massive leaguer and Boras shopper Matt Holliday is a volunteer assistant coach.
“This offseason has been great for him,” Boras mentioned. “He’s feeling much different than he did at the end of last season.”
And now, it would embody a change of surroundings, as properly — one which additional shakes up what’s quick changing into an more and more transformative offseason for a crew that gained a franchise-record 111 video games in the course of the common season, however solely as soon as within the playoffs.
“Our goal is to put together a championship ballclub,” Roberts mentioned. “That doesn’t change.”