Cody Bellinger undrafted by Dodgers

In a move that would have been unthinkable just two seasons ago, the Dodgers decided to move non-bid outfielder Cody Bellinger at the Friday deadline. The move makes Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, a free agent for the first time in his career.

“Obviously, it’s been a unique path for Cody because he’s battled injuries over the past few years and worked hard to return to All-Star-level performance,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. . “However, it didn’t work out the way we hoped or anticipated and we had to make the difficult decision not to tender as a result.”

Bellinger is projected to make more than $20 million in his final season eligible for salary arbitration. The Dodgers are reluctant to pay that number, even though they believe Bellinger can bounce back next season, considering Bellinger has been underwhelming in each of the past two seasons.

The move doesn’t necessarily end Bellinger’s time in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will try to bring him back for less, but it will be a tall order. The center fielder is expected to have plenty of suitors. Friedman said the Dodgers explored trading Bellinger at the non-bid deadline, but the talks 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 a long list of teams interested in his services. one.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the end of the chapter for Cody and the Dodgers,” Friedman said. “We still believe very much in Cody’s talent and his competitiveness, and we are interested in reuniting and will continue to negotiate with Cody and his team. He can discuss this on his side.”

Bellinger expects plenty of suitors because he has the potential to capitalize on what once made him one of MLB’s top players. Bellinger hit 39 home runs in 2017 and won the NL Rookie of the Year award. In ’19, he hit 47 home runs and beat Christian Yelich for his first MVP award.

This type of production became what the Dodgers and Bellingers expected, but it became impossible to reproduce. Bellinger dislocated his non-throwing shoulder while celebrating a home run in Game 7 of the NLCS in the 1920s. He had surgery in the offseason, which kept him out for several weeks in spring training.

In week one of the 21 season, Bellinger fractured his left fibula in a freak game against the A’s. While he dealt with the injury, Bellinger was never able to play. He finished the year with 10 home runs and a .542 OPS, one of the worst hitters in the major league qualifying rounds.

Bellinger is excited about his added strength this year in spring training. But the results never came, and he had a .654 OPS in 144 games. The 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 think last offseason, I was very confident [about a bounce-back season], and it hasn’t been proven in 22 years,” Friedman said of Bellinger. “We don’t know much about what we do. … We still really believe in Cody’s talent and feel like he’s as committed as ever to solving this problem.

“Combined with the talent we have in the weight room and the coaching staff, we felt like we could figure it out with him. But I feel that way going into ’22 again. Going into ’23, I feel that way again. “

Bellinger is 27 years old and still plays elite defense in midfield. The argument for giving him a contract revolved around giving him one last chance to work things out in Los Angeles. But with the Dodgers needing to upgrade other positions, primarily starting pitchers, his price tag has become too heavy at this point in the offseason.

With Bellinger off the roster, the Dodgers played Tress Thompson and Kristeler in center field. James Altman is also an option. The Dodgers will also keep an eye on free-agent outfielders like Kevin Kiermaier, whom Friedman drafted to the Rays in 2010.

Los Angeles has cleared nearly $100 million in payroll since free agency began, but will likely enter the 23 season on a lower payroll than the previous two years.

The Dodgers have yet to draft infielder Luke Williams, whom they received on waiver from the Marlins last week, and infielder Edwin Rios, who hit seven home runs in 27 games for the Dodgers last season. beat.

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