On November 30, we predicted which players the Chicago Cubs might sign to improve their team.
Cody Bellinger was on that list of players, and despite reports to the contrary, the 27-year-old former Los Angeles Dodgers, and also former MVP signed a one-year, $17.5 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, according to multiple reports.
Bellinger moved to Chicago after the Los Angeles Dodgers declined to tender his contract for the 2023 season, allowing him to enter free agency.
According to reports, Cody Bellinger was very close to joining the Toronto Blue Jays as the new Toronto bench coach, Don Mattingly, was with the Dodgers when Cody Bellinger was still playing in the minors. The Dodgers were also interested, but a reunion was always unlikely.
Cody Bellinger was named Rookie of the Year in 2017 and National League MVP in 2019, both while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
LA #Dodgers Cody Bellinger wins NL MVP award over Christian Yelich
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 14, 2019
During that MVP season, Bellinger also won a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove Award for his outstanding defensive abilities.
Bellinger appeared in two World Series with the Dodgers, winning one in 2022, the year the Dodgers won the World Series for the first time in 32 years.
Trophy szn. #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/jKiPRw5ZcJ
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 28, 2020
With the Dodgers, Bellinger averaged 152 home runs, 422 RBI, 652 hits and a .248 batting average.
What can the Chicago Cubs expect from Bellinger?
Cody Bellinger has struggled since his MVP season and has yet to regain his MVP form. Bellinger failed to hit 20 home runs in his last two seasons, and his on-base percentage was below.660, which influenced the Dodgers’ decision to let him go.
The Chicago Cubs will almost certainly make Cody Bellinger the team’s starting center fielder in 2023, but he also has the ability to play either corner outfield position or first base if necessary, which makes him extremely valuable.
The Cubs are hoping that Bellinger can avoid injuries, as the outfielder missed 67 games in 2021 due to them.
And, while it did not appear to affect his defense in center field, making him one of the best defenders in MLB today, his offensive output was extremely low, as previously stated.
The Cubs are hoping that Bellinger can improve on his .165/.240/.302 batting average over 350 plate appearances in 2021, which was the sixth-lowest batting average for a hitter with that many plate appearances since 1990.
Last season, Bellinger improved slightly, hitting 19 home runs in 144 games while maintaining a mediocre .210/.265/.389 slash line.
The Cubs are excited about this signing because, when healthy, few players can impact the game on both sides of the ball like Cody Bellinger.
Given that Bellinger is still only 26 years old and managed to play a full season last year while remaining healthy, a return to form in the batter’s box, in a new environment, with a new team, is the next step for success.
A former NL MVP is on the move!
Cody Bellinger, Cubs reportedly agree to a 1-year deal, per https://t.co/Z3s2EoZ3Ez's @Feinsand. pic.twitter.com/9oFnjo6593
— MLB (@MLB) December 6, 2022
What does Bellinger need to do?
The main issue that Bellinger must address is the offspeed and breaking pitches.
During that 2019 MVP season, Bellinger didn’t care what pitch type he was facing because he was destroying everything.
Let’s compare the statistics. Bellinger’s expected slugging percentage against Fastball in 2019 was .469, last season he went down to .428.
For the breaking balls, it was .413 and last season he went down to .244, same as the offspeed pitches that went down from .653 in 2019 to .244 last season.
Cody Bellinger was also one of the batters who grounded out the most as a result of the infield shifts.
Was this a gamble from the Cubs?
This offseason, starting caliber center fielders are in short supply, so rather than giving a long-term deal to a player like Brandon Nimmo, the Cubs decided to go with a much lower price tag and a one-year deal to Cody Bellinger.
Money is definitely not an issue for the Cubs, as stated by the Cubs owner and gamble or not, at the very least, even if Cody Bellinger can’t rediscover his form at the plate but is able to stay healthy during the season, the Cubs can always look to move him at the deadline given his amazing defensive skill at a very critical position, and perhaps another team would think that they could fix his swing.
The talent is undeniable, and statistics don’t lie: Bellinger is 17th on the list of home runs by players 23 years old and under, with names like Mike Trout, Juan Soto, and Bryce Harper ahead of him.
What we can conclude from this signing is that a one-year bet by a rich team like the Chicago Cubs is more than reasonable, and if it pays off, it will be a huge win for both the Cubs and Cody Bellinger. I certainly hope to see Cody Bellinger regain his incredible form.
Credits on Featured Image: Ian D’Andrea, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons