Cubs, Cody Bellinger reach $17.5 million in 1-year deal

Outfielder Cody Bellinger and the Chicago Cubs have agreed a one-year, $17.5 million deal, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Bellinger continued to provide the Los Angeles Dodgers with Gold Glove-caliber defense in midfield last season in addition to increased speed on bases, but he continued to struggle offensively.

He was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player after a 2019 season in which he batted .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs, 115 RBIs and 15 stolen bases while being worth 7.7 FanGraph wins over spares. Since then, Bellinger has batted just .203/.272/.376 in 295 regular season games. His .648 OPS from 2020–2022 ranked 299th out of 338 qualified batsmen during that stretch.

“He’s a really good fit from the perspective that he’s got great defense, great base running, a left-handed hitter with the potential for an uptick on offense,” Cubs manager David Ross said Tuesday of the winter meetings.

Bellinger ventured into the free-agent market a year early after not being written out by the Dodgers after the 2022 season. He should make about $18 million in 2023.

The Cubs are looking to quickly reshuffle their roster after saying goodbye to stars Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in recent years. Bellinger offers them a solid mid-point gauntlet as he attempts to regain his value at the plate.

He’s likely seen as a placeholder for potential Pete Crow-Armstrong — the player they got from the New York Mets for Baez in 2021. If the Cubs field a competitive team, Bellinger could help them get back into the postseason for the first time since 2018. If they’re struggling — and Bellinger is playing — he could be traded by the July deadline if the team makes way for Crow-Armstrong . If he keeps fighting, the Cubs will have wasted $17.5 million — but at least for just one season.

Earlier Tuesday, Bellinger’s agent Scott Boras said he had submitted multi-year offers for Bellinger but wanted a one-year deal so he could return to free agency after the 2023 season, hopefully after a better performance than recent seasons.

Bellinger’s batting average dropped to .165 in 2021. Last season, he hit .210 with 19 home runs in 144 games for a Dodgers team that set a franchise-record 111 wins.

In six MLB seasons, all with Los Angeles, Bellinger has a .248 career average with 152 home runs, 422 RBIs and 62 stolen bases. The two-time All-Star selection was 2017 NL Rookie of the Year and 2018 NLCS MVP, and won a World Series ring in 2020.

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