Free Agent Profile: The Blue Jays pursued Cody Bellinger last winter and likely will again this year
24 days ago
Cody Bellinger’s free agency is going to be much different this year than last.
On Wednesday, we kicked off our Free Agent Profile series with Shohei Ohtani, the biggest name on the open market this winter. In this series, we look at available free agents that the Jays could have some interest in. We’ll look at how the player performed in 2023, their salary expectations, and if they’re a fit for the Blue Jays.
Cody Bellinger’s 2023:
Sometimes all it takes is a new organization and ideas to restart your career. Bellinger had a fantastic 2019 with the Dodgers, slashing .305/.406/.629 with 47 homers in 660 plate appearances for a 7.8 fWAR. However, his Dodger career slowly petered out after that fantastic season, accumulating just 2.2 fWAR in the next three seasons.
After joining the Chicago Cubs after free agency, Bellinger had a career renaissance, slashing .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs in 556 plate appearances, accumulating a 4.1 fWAR. While it wasn’t an MVP-calibre season like he had in 2019 with L.A., the 27-year-old once again became a crucial part of a team on the playoff bubble.
Bellinger was rewarded for his season with the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award. That begs the question, what will his great 2023 season earn him for 2024 and beyond?
What will Cody Bellinger’s contract be like:
In the Shohei Ohtani article, we looked at Jim Bowden’s predictions from his article. We’ll do the same here.
Bowden projects that Bellinger will sign a six-year deal worth $144,000,000, which totals to $24,000,000 a season. That’s an annual average similar to Christian Yelich’s, who signed a nine-year $ 215,000,000 deal in March 2020. Interestingly, he and Bellinger battled for the 2019 National League MVP, before the two of them struggled over the next three seasons.
When the 2023 season finished, both Bellinger and Yelich finished with a 4.1 fWAR, so the comparison from Bowden makes sense.
Is Cody Bellinger a fit for the Blue Jays:
Absolutely. It’s been a while since Bellinger played a corner outfield position, only playing 315.1 innings in left field and not doing so since 2018. The Blue Jays could also play Bellinger in centre field and keep Varsho in left, where he excelled last season. Having too many good defensive centre fielders isn’t a bad thing.
Defensively, Bellinger is great in the outfield, amassing a 31 Defensive Runs Saved and a 33 Outs Above Average in 4915.2 innings fielded, mainly between centre field and right field. Not just that, but Bellinger plays first base pretty well, posting a 5 DRS in 421.2 innings fielded there in 2023. If Vladimir Guerrero Jr. needs a rest day, Bellinger could easily slot into first base for a few games.
This isn’t to mention the power he has. While he only hit 26 homers, 21 less than his MVP season, those 26 homers would have been tied for the Blue Jays lead. In the hitter-friendly American League East, who knows how many homers he could hit?
As mentioned in the headline, the Blue Jays were among the teams in the mix to sign Bellinger last winter when teams were offering him one-year, show-me deals. A few years ago, the Blue Jays were interested in signing Kevin Gausman, he wound up inking a short-term deal with the San Fran Giants, and then Toronto circled back and signed him during his second go-around in free agency. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the same thing happen with Bellinger.
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