The Cubs are in agreement on a deal with Cody Bellinger, according to Jon Heyman of The New York Post. It will be a one-year, $17.5MM deal, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. It will take the form of a $12MM salary and a $5.5MM buyout on a mutual option for 2024, per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.
Bellinger, 27, has been one of the more interesting free agents this offseason, given that he has shown incredible upside in the past but has been in a dismal downturn in recent years. Over his first three seasons, 2017 to 2019, Bellinger hit 111 home runs and stole 39 bases. He walked in 12.4% of his plate appearances, leading to a batting line of .278/.368/.559 for a wRC+ of 140, indicating he was 40% better than league average during that time. That included a 2019 season where he hit 47 home runs, swiped 15 bags and produced a wRC+ of 161. He also provided excellent outfield defense, leading to a tally of 7.7 wins above replacement in the eyes of FanGraphs. He was awarded the National League Most Valuable Player award for that season.
Bellinger slid a bit from those heights in the shortened 2020 season. He hit .239/.333/.455, still above average with his wRC+ finishing at 112, but a significant drop-off from previous seasons. An ill-advised celebration in the postseason caused a shoulder injury that required surgery and he hasn’t seemed himself since. He hit just .165/.240/.302 in 2021 for a wRC+ of 47, then bounced back a bit in 2022 but still finished at .210/.265/.389, wRC+ of 83.
Despite those down years, Bellinger’s salary kept climbing for a few reasons. He reached arbitration for the first time going into 2020, on the heels of his MVP campaign, as a Super Two player. He quickly jumped up to $11.5MM in his first year of eligibility and then to $16.1MM for 2021 after having a diminished but still productive 2020. Since the arbitration system is designed to push salaries up, Bellinger jumped to $17MM for 2022 despite his poor performance in the prior season. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected another jump to $18.1MM for 2023 but the Dodgers decided to cut bait and non-tendered Bellinger, sending him to free agency.
More to come.
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