There is no guarantee that the Cubs are going to sign one of the top free agents available this offseason or trade for Juan Soto, but how wild is it that a story like this comes out and the fan base isn’t really hitting the panic button. We’re talking about a truly beloved player in Cody Bellinger, who yes, has only played one season with the Cubs, but in that short time became a fan favorite and the latest speculation is that the Cubs have other priorities than Bellinger.
MLB reporter Jon Morosi was discussing Bellinger’s market early this offseason and he brought up the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants to go along with the Cubs as his prime suitors. However, Morosi responded to a question about the likelihood of a reunion in Chicago by saying it’s possible, but that he believes the Cubs have other priorities right now.
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what those other priorities may be.
See, while it would hurt to see Bellinger go elsewhere after he fit in perfectly with the Cubs in 2023, the expectation now is for Jed Hoyer to go bigger. That means going all-in for Shohei Ohtani. That means being aggressive in trade talks with the San Diego Padres for Juan Soto. Maybe the focus is on courting 25-year-old pitching star Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
So yeah, although Bellinger brought that star-power with him to the Cubs this past season, the Cubs can’t afford to wait around for him. I’ve had this thought ever since free agency began and it’s that Bellinger will be one of the top free agents to sign late in the offseason because despite his resurgence at the plate in 2023, his market may not be as big as he or his agent Scott Boras believe it should be.
That brings us to Jeff Passan’s latest offseason preview.
Here’s Passan’s blurb on Bellinger.
Bellinger will easily crack $100 million this winter but even after his resurgent season, teams are expressing concern with how hard he hits the ball. His hard-hit rate was in the 10th percentile in MLB, his average exit velocity the 22nd. A .307/.356/.525 line and precipitous dip in strikeout rate in 2022 will mean Bellinger has a plethora of options he didn’t have last offseason, but his financial ceiling might suffer because the expected numbers don’t portend well and teams rely heavily on them in their assessments.
So again, if the early perception is that Bellinger may not get a huge contract that many us have expected, then it’s plausible that his process of finding a suitable deal drags on deep into the winter. I have no issue what that at all and he should leverage a weak free agent pool to squeeze out what he believes he’s worth. However, with a few other big names out there, the Cubs simply cannot sit on their hands and wait for Bellinger, if he does indeed sign later in the offseason.
And that’s why when you see a reporter say the Cubs have other priorities than Bellinger, that’s not a bad thing…for now.