In a transfer that was unthinkable simply two seasons in the past, the Dodgers determined to non-tender outfielder Cody Bellinger earlier than the deadline Friday. The transfer makes Bellinger, the 2019 Nationwide League Most Worthwhile Participant, a free agent for the primary time in his profession.
“Clearly, it’s been a novel path for Cody as he’s battled by accidents and labored diligently over the previous few years to return to his All-Star-caliber efficiency,” mentioned Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “Nonetheless, it hasn’t performed out in addition to we might’ve hoped or anticipated, and subsequently we needed to make a tough resolution of non-tendering.”
Bellinger was scheduled to make upward of $20 million throughout his final season eligible for wage arbitration. Given Bellinger’s subpar manufacturing on the plate in every of the final two seasons, that was a determine the Dodgers didn’t really feel comfy paying, even when they imagine Bellinger can bounce again subsequent season.
The transfer doesn’t essentially finish Bellinger’s time in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will try and deliver him again at a cheaper price, however that might be a troublesome job. The middle fielder is anticipated to have loads of suitors. Friedman mentioned the Dodgers explored buying and selling Bellinger earlier than the non-tender deadline, however talks by no means materialized.
Now that Bellinger is a free agent and may signal for much less cash, the Rays, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs and Marlins are amongst an extended listing of groups that might be fascinated by his companies.
“I would not essentially say that is the closing of the chapter of Cody and the Dodgers,” Friedman mentioned. “We nonetheless very a lot imagine within the expertise of Cody and his aggressive make-up, and we now have curiosity in a reunion and can proceed talks with Cody and his group. And he will get to debate this on his finish.”
Bellinger’s anticipated massive pool of suitors might be due to the likelihood he faucets into what as soon as made him certainly one of MLB’s prime gamers. Bellinger hit 39 homers in 2017 and took residence the NL Rookie of the Yr Award. In ’19, he hit 47 homers and edged Christian Yelich for his first MVP Award.
That sort of manufacturing grew to become what the Dodgers and Bellinger anticipated, nevertheless it grew to become not possible to recreate. In ‘20, Bellinger dislocated his non-throwing shoulder as he celebrated a homer in Sport 7 of the NLCS. He underwent offseason surgical procedure, which sidelined him for a number of weeks in Spring Coaching.
In the course of the first week of the ’21 season, Bellinger fractured his left fibula throughout a freak play in opposition to the A’s. As he handled accidents, Bellinger was by no means in a position to get going on the plate. He ended the yr with 10 homers and a .542 OPS, one of many worst within the Majors amongst qualifying hitters.
Bellinger got here into Spring Coaching this yr enthusiastic about his added power. However the outcomes by no means got here, and he posted a .654 OPS in 144 video games. That lack of manufacturing led the Dodgers to bench Bellinger in Sport 4 of the NLDS in opposition to the Padres, even with right-hander Joe Musgrove on the mound.
“I assumed final offseason, I used to be very assured [about a bounce-back season], and it didn’t show out in ’22,” Friedman mentioned of Bellinger. “There are only a few knowns in what we do. … We nonetheless actually imagine within the expertise of Cody and really feel like he’s as dedicated as ever to determine it out.
“That, coupled with the expertise we now have in our weight room, on our teaching workers, we really feel like we, collectively with him, may determine it out. However once more I felt that approach coming into ’22. I really feel that approach once more heading into ’23.”
Bellinger is 27 and nonetheless performs elite protection in heart subject. The argument to tender him a contract revolved round giving him one final probability to determine issues out in Los Angeles. However with the Dodgers needing to improve different positions, primarily the beginning pitching workers, his price ticket grew to become too heavy at this level within the offseason.
With Bellinger off the roster, the Dodgers have Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor slated to play heart subject. James Outman can be an choice. The Dodgers additionally might be maintaining tabs on free-agent outfielders equivalent to Kevin Kiermaier, who was drafted by the Rays in 2010 by Friedman.
Los Angeles has cleared practically $100 million off the payroll for the reason that begin of free company however doubtless will come into the ’23 season with a decrease payroll than within the earlier two years.
The Dodgers additionally non-tendered infielder Luke Williams, whom they claimed off waivers from the Marlins final week, and infielder Edwin Ríos, who hit seven homers in 27 video games with the Dodgers final season.