In a move that would have been unthinkable two seasons ago, the Dodgers decided Non-tender Outfielder Cody Bellinger The deadline is before Friday. The move makes Bellinger, the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player, a free agent for the first time in his career.
“Obviously, this has been a unique path for Cody as he has battled injuries and worked diligently to return to his All-Star-caliber performance over the past few years,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “However, it did not play out as well as we had hoped or expected, so we had to take the difficult decision not to tender.”
Bellinger was slated to make more than $20 million in his final season Salary Arbiter. Given Bellinger’s subpar production in each of the past two seasons, the Dodgers don’t feel comfortable paying him, even if they believe Bellinger can bounce back next season.
The move doesn’t necessarily end Bellinger’s time in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will try to land him for less, but that will be a difficult task. The center fielder is expected to have plenty of suitors. Friedman said the Dodgers explored trading Bellinger before the non-tender deadline, but negotiations never materialized.
Now that Bellinger is a free agent and can sign for less money, the Rays, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs and Marlins are among the long list of teams interested in his services.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the end of the chapter for Cody and the Dodgers,” Friedman said. “We’re still very confident in Cody’s ability and his competitive makeup, and we’re interested in reuniting and will continue to have conversations with Cody and his team. He’ll have to discuss this with his decision.”
Bellinger’s expected large number of suitors will be due to the possibility of him knocking off what once made him one of MLB’s best players. Bellinger hit 39 homers in 2017 and earned NL Rookie of the Year honors. In ’19, he hit 47 homers and beat Christian Yelich for his first MVP award.
That type of production became what the Dodgers and Bellinger had hoped for, but it was impossible to replicate. In ’20, Bellinger dislocated his non-throwing shoulder while hitting a homer in Game 7 of the NLCS. He underwent offseason surgery that sidelined him for a few weeks in spring training.
21 In the first week of the season, Bellinger fractured his left fibula during a freak game against the A’s. As he dealt with injuries, Bellinger was unable to step up to the plate. He finished the year with 10 homers and a .542 batting average OPSWorst in the majors among qualifying hitters.
Bellinger came into spring training this year excited about his added strength. But the results never came, and he posted a .654 OPS in 144 games. That lack of production led the Dodgers to bench Bellinger in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Padres, even with right-hander Joe Musgrove on the mound.
“I thought I was very confident last season [about a bounce-back season]At 22 it was not proven,” Friedman said of Bellinger. “There are very few people in what we’re doing. … We still truly believe in Cody’s talent and feel he’s as determined as ever to find it.
“That, with the talent we have in our weight room, with our coaching staff, we feel like we can partner with him and figure it out. But again I feel like I’m coming in at 22. I feel like I’m going back at ’23.
Bellinger is 27 and still plays elite defense in center field. The argument to offer him a contract gave him one last chance to figure things out in Los Angeles. But while the Dodgers need to improve other positions, primarily the starting pitching staff, his price tag has become too high at this point in the offseason.
From Bellinger’s list, there are the Dodgers Trace Thompson And Chris Taylor Scheduled to be played at Center Stadium. James Outman is also an option. The Dodgers keep tabs on free-agent outfielders like Kevin Kiermaier, who was drafted by the Rays in 2010 for Friedman.
Los Angeles has cleared nearly $100 million in payroll since the start of free agency, but is likely to enter the ’23 season with less payroll than the previous two years.
Dodgers and non-tendered infielder Luke WilliamsThey claimed the infielder off waivers last week from the Marlins Edwin RiosHe hit seven homers in 27 games with the Dodgers last season.