You should probably expect Cody Bellinger to sign late in the offseason compared to some of the other big free agents this winter and based on this early contract projection, Scott Boras is going to be working overtime to drive up the price for the pending Cubs free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden released his top-40 free agent rankings and Bellinger’s projected deal seems low.
The main reason is because other than Shohei Ohtani, Bellinger is the next best free agent position player in a rather weak market for good hitters. Bellinger ranks sixth overall in Bowden’s top-40 list and if this number does end up being in the ballpark of what Bellinger gets, then the Cubs have no excuse not to re-sign the left-handed hitter this offseason.
Via The Athletic.
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This year, Cody Bellinger was the perfect example of what a change of scenery can do for a player. He slashed .307/.356/.525 with 29 doubles, 26 home runs, 95 runs scored and 97 RBIs while stealing 20 bases in 26 attempts. He’s the front-runner for NL Comeback Player of the Year and his value has spiked to the highest it’s been since he was the NL MVP in 2019, so it’s the ideal time for him to enter free agency. Beyond his bat, Bellinger provides terrific versatility, as he can play first base and all three outfield positions at an above-average level. After years of struggles at the plate, he’s figured it out and now ranks as the best position player not named Ohtani in this free-agent class.
Contract prediction: Six years, $144 million
Don’t me wrong, I know about the awful numbers that Bellinger had in his last few years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and I’m sure teams negotiating with him will point to that in order to lower the price, but I think he proved that when healthy he’s still a star. Bellinger dealt with a banged up shoulder in Los Angeles, however, in 2023, he finished as the eighth best hitter in the National League.
And again, this just cannot be emphasized enough, besides Ohtani, Bellinger is the best free agent hitter available this offseason. I do not see how he’ll get a worse contract than George Springer, who signed a six-year, $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays heading into 2021.
But who knows, maybe Bellinger’s contract won’t be all that crazy despite me thinking he’d be worth a mega deal. Let’s bump up the predicted length to seven years and call it an even $25 million per year. So, 7 years, $175 million?
On Monday, The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma published an in-depth article discussing what several scouts thought about Bellinger’s bounce back in 2023 and what it could mean for him in free agency. The consensus among the scouts is that 2020-22 Bellinger was the outlier.
Via The Athletic.
There seemed to be a general consensus among the four talent evaluators: Bellinger would age well all things considered, and there’s little concern about his struggles from 2020-22. They all noticed his weak contact numbers, but they didn’t raise enough red flags to scare them off the possibility of offering Bellinger a large contract.
The article from Sharma also discusses two other players that have been connected to the Cubs during the past month: Pete Alonso and Juan Soto. Of course, for the Cubs would need to trade some valuable players to acquire either of those guys, while Bellinger would only cost money.
We know the Cubs need to add a star bat this offseason and ultimately because of how Boras has historically handled his big free agent clients, Bellinger could end up being Jed Hoyer’s backup plan after the new year.
All scouts agreed that Boras is the wild card here. The Cubs know that and are preparing for him to take Bellinger’s negotiations deep into the offseason. Unless Boras is able to convince an owner to give Bellinger an outlandish deal, it’s unlikely to be done in December.
Free agency begins five days after the conclusion of the World Series.