The Dodgers won’t tender a contract to Cody Bellinger for his last yr of arbitration eligibility, reviews Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (Twitter hyperlink). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected the 2019 NL MVP for a wage round $18.1MM. Bellinger will likely be a free agent as soon as the staff formally pronounces the choice.
It’s not a stunning transfer at this level, but it surely’s one no one would’ve foreseen when Bellinger was accumulating his MVP trophy three years in the past. He blasted 47 house runs that season and posted an general .305/.406/.629 line throughout 661 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter seemed to have cemented himself as one of many sport’s preeminent sluggers, and he carried a profession .278/.368/.559 mark in over 1800 plate appearances heading into 2020. At age 24, Bellinger appeared a budding famous person .
Unfortunately, issues have gone south over the previous few seasons. He stumbled a bit throughout the abbreviated 2020 marketing campaign, placing up a .239/.333/.455 line in 56 video games. That was nonetheless above-average manufacturing however a notable step again from the numbers of his first few seasons. A putrid .245 batting common on balls in play appeared to be a serious reason for that, and one might actually level to the anomalous circumstances that yr in anticipating a bounceback.
That’s not how issues have performed out, seemingly partly attributable to an ill-advised celebration that postseason. Bellinger dislocated his proper shoulder celebrating an important house run in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS. While he performed out the postseason, he underwent surgical procedure in mid-November. Bellinger was wholesome sufficient to open the 2021 marketing campaign on the roster, however he battled a collection of unrelated leg and rib points. In between, his slash line plummeted to a meager .165/.240/.302 in 95 video games.
LA introduced him again final winter, avoiding arbitration on a $17MM wage. Their hoped-for bounceback season did not actually materialize, although. Bellinger’s 2022 numbers had been improved from the earlier yr however nowhere close to these of earlier seasons. In 550 journeys to the plate, he put up a .210/.265/.389 mark. That brings him to precisely 900 plate appearances over the previous two years, by which he hit .193/.256/.355. His on-base share is lowest among the many 151 hitters with 900+ journeys to the dish, whereas his batting common bests solely that of Joey Gallo. He’s sixth from the underside in slugging.
Bellinger’s batted ball metrics and energy output have taken a step again, which might point out he is by no means fairly regained the explosiveness in his swing after the shoulder surgical procedure. Yet he is additionally seen a marked uptick in strikeouts, fanning 27.1% of the time after slicing his strikeout fee beneath 18% in 2019-20. His stroll share fell to a below-average 7.7%, and supervisor Dave Roberts has more and more dropped him additional within the batting order.
With two full seasons of giant offensive struggles underneath his belt, the Dodgers have elected to maneuver on somewhat than pay the two-time All-Star within the neighborhood of $18MM. That at all times greater than even the high-spending franchise could be prepared to pay, and it stands to motive that no different membership was prepared to supply that type of wage both. The Dodgers have presumably spent the previous few weeks gauging the commerce marketplace for Bellinger, and that he’ll be lower unfastened for no return signifies there wasn’t a lot curiosity at that worth level.
That stated, there is not any query he’ll be of curiosity to groups as a bounceback goal at a decrease price. Bellinger, to his credit score, has not allowed his offensive struggles to have an effect on his work within the discipline. He’s an elite runner who has moved full-time to middle discipline after arising as a primary baseman and nook outfielder. Defensive Runs Saved has rated him as a roughly common middle fielder the final two years, however Ultimate Zone Rating and Statcast have pegged him above par. Statcast has been most bullish, score him as seven runs above common in slightly below 1900 innings of middle discipline work for the reason that begin of the 2021 marketing campaign.
Slightly above-average middle discipline protection and plus baserunning offers Bellinger a good ground even when he is not hitting properly, though he is clearly fairly a bit extra of an upside play than a conventional glove-only outfielder. He’ll look for an entire reset offensively, however heading into his age-27 marketing campaign, he might actually nonetheless rediscover a few of his previous type on the plate.
Non-tendered gamers aren’t topic to waivers, so Bellinger will likely be a free agent. He and his representatives on the Boras Corporation may have the chance to gauge curiosity from different groups, and so they’ll profit from an absence of provide in middle discipline. Except Aaron Judgeformer Met Brandon Nimmo is the highest middle fielder out there in free company. Bellinger arguably turns into the next-best choice in a category that additionally contains Kevin Kiermaier, Adam Duvall and Jackie Bradley Jr.
The Mets, Blue Jays, Marlins, Rangers, Rays, Rockies, Astros, Padres and Giants (a staff run by former LA govt Farhan Zaidi) might all look externally for middle assist. They’re speculative matches for Bellinger, and the Dodgers themselves might stay in touch a few reunion at a cheaper price level.
Los Angeles might give Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor or Trayce Thompson elevated middle discipline run, but it surely stands to motive they will additionally scour the marketplace for assist exterior the group. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reviews (on Twitter) they’re looking at Kiermaier as a part of that search.
Subtracting Bellinger’s arbitration projection leaves LA with round $152MM in projected 2023 payroll, per Roster Resource, pending extra arbitration choices. They’re estimated round $169MM in luxurious tax obligations, leaving them properly shy of subsequent yr’s $233MM base tax threshold. That does not embrace an approximate $20MM wage for Clayton Kershaw, who’s reportedly nearing a deal to re-sign. Still, the Dodgers ought to have loads of monetary respiration room to deal with shortstop, middle discipline, third base and rotation depth that appear like the staff’s greatest query marks early within the offseason.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.