Dodgers Will Not Offer Cody Bellinger (Source)
In a move that would have been unthinkable just two seasons ago, the Dodgers have decided not to tender an outfielder Cody Bellinger before Friday’s deadline, a source told MLB.com. The move makes Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, a free agent for the first time in his career.
Bellinger was set to make around $18-20 million during his final arbitration season. Given Bellinger’s poor production in each of the last two seasons, that was a figure the Dodgers were not comfortable paying for Bellinger, leading them to make a tough decision.
The move doesn’t necessarily end Bellinger’s time in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will try to bring Bellinger back for a lower price, according to a source, but that will be a difficult task as the market for the center fielder is expected to have plenty of suitors.
Bellinger’s expected large number of suitors will be due to the opportunity to capitalize on what once made him one of the best players in the league. Bellinger hit 39 homers in 2017 and took home the NL Rookie of the Year award. In ’19, he hit 47 homers and passed Christian Yelich for his first MVP award.
That kind of production has become what the Dodgers and Bellinger have come to expect, but has become impossible to recreate. In ’20, Bellinger dislocated his shoulder without pitching while hitting a homer in Game 7 of the NLCS. He underwent offseason surgery, which sidelined him for several weeks in spring training.
During the first week of the ’21 season, Bellinger broke his left fibula on a freak play against the A’s. Dealing with injuries, Bellinger was never able to get going, finishing the year with 10 homers and a .542 OPS, one of the worst in the Majors among qualifiers attackers.
Entering the ’22 season, the Dodgers and Bellinger were optimistic about a comeback season. Bellinger came into spring training excited about his added strength. But the results never came and he posted a .654 OPS in 144 games in ’22. That lack of production ultimately led the Dodgers to bench Bellinger in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Padres, even with right-hander Joe Musgrove on the mound.
Bellinger will be 27 next season and still plays elite defense in center field. The argument for offering him a contract revolved around giving him one last chance to figure things out in Los Angeles. But with the Dodgers needing to upgrade other positions on the roster, primarily the starting pitching staff, his price tag has become prohibitive at this point in the offseason.
With Bellinger out, the Dodgers have Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor to play center field. Mookie Betts can also slide from time to time. They will also monitor outfielders like Kevin Kiermaier.
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