Cody Bellinger non-soft Dodgers

Cody Bellinger non-soft Dodgers

The Dodgers will not offer a contract to Cody Bellinger for his final year of refereeing eligibility, reports Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz predicted the 2019 NL MVP would receive a salary of around $18.1 million. Bellinger will be a free agent once the team officially announces the decision.

It’s not a surprising decision at this point, but it’s one no one would have expected when Bellinger was presented with his MVP trophy three years ago. He homered 47 that season and posted an overall line of .305/.406/.629 in 661 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter seemed to have established himself as one of the preeminent hitters in the sport, and he had a career .278/.368/.559 in over 1,800 plate appearances before 2020. At 24, Bellinger looked like a budding superstar . .

Unfortunately, things have gone downhill over the past few seasons. He stumbled a bit in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, setting a .239/.333/.455 line in 56 games. It was still an above-average production, but a notable step back from the number of its first seasons. A putrid .245 batting average on balls in play seemed to be a major culprit, and one could certainly point to the abnormal circumstances that year in anticipating a rebound.

That’s not how things turned out, apparently in part because of a misguided playoff celebration. Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder celebrating a crucial home run in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS. While playing in the playoffs, he underwent surgery in mid-November. Bellinger was healthy enough to open the 2021 campaign on the roster, but he battled a series of unrelated leg and rib issues. In between, his slant line has dropped to a paltry 0.165/0.240/0.302 in 95 games.

LA brought him back last winter, avoiding arbitration on a $17 million salary. However, their hoped-for bounce season didn’t quite materialize. Bellinger’s 2022 numbers were improved from the previous year, but nowhere near previous seasons. In 550 trips to home plate, he scored .210/.265/.389. That brings him to exactly 900 plate appearances over the past two years, in which he hit .193/.256/.355. His on-base percentage is the lowest among 151 batters with more than 900 trips to the flat, while his batting average is only higher than that of Joey Gallo. He is sixth from bottom in slugging.

Bellinger’s batted ball metrics and power output slipped, which could indicate he never quite regained the explosiveness of his swing after shoulder surgery. Yet he also saw a marked increase in strikeouts, stoking 27.1% of the time after cutting his strikeout rate below 18% in 2019-20. His walk percentage fell to 7.7% below average, and manager Dave Roberts increasingly dropped him in the batting order.

With two full seasons of huge offensive struggles under his belt, the Dodgers chose to move on rather than pay the two-time All-Star around $18 million. It always seemed like more than even the spendthrift franchise would be willing to pay, and it stands to reason that no other club was willing to offer that kind of salary either. The Dodgers have likely spent the past few weeks assessing the trade market for Bellinger, and the fact that he will be let go with no return indicates there wasn’t much interest at that price.

That said, there’s no doubt he’ll be of interest to teams as a cheap rebound target. Bellinger, to his credit, didn’t allow his offensive struggles to affect his work on the pitch. He’s an elite runner who moved full-time to center field after serving as first baseman and corner fielder. Defensive Runs Saved rated him as a roughly average centre-back for the past two years, but Ultimate Zone Rating and Statcast rated him above par. Statcast was the most optimistic, rating him as seven points above average in just under 1,900 innings of center field work since the start of the 2021 campaign.

Slightly above average center field defense and more base running give Bellinger decent ground even if he doesn’t hit well, although he’s obviously a bit more of an upside down play than an outfielder. traditional with gloves only. He’ll be looking for a full reset offensively, but heading into his campaign at 27, he could certainly still regain some of his old form at the plate.

Unsubmitted players are not subject to waivers, so Bellinger will be a free agent. He and his representatives at the Boras Corporation will have the opportunity to gauge interest from other teams, and they will benefit from a lack of supply in center field. Except Judge Aaronformer met Brandon Nimmo is the best center fielder available in free agency. Bellinger becomes arguably the next best option in a class that also includes Kevin Kiermaier, Adam Duval and Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Mets, Blue Jays, Marlins, Rangers, Rays, Rockies, Astros, Padres and Giants (a team led by former LA executive Farhan Zaidi) could all be looking for help at center . These are speculative adjustments for Bellinger, and the Dodgers themselves could stay in touch about a reunion at a lower price.

Los Angeles could give Mookie Bets, Chris Taylor Where Trayce Thompson increased running in the center field, but it stands to reason that they will also scour the market for help outside of the organization. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (on Twitter) they examine Kiermaier as part of this research.

The subtraction of Bellinger’s arbitration projection leaves LA with an estimated $152 million in 2023 payroll, per Roster Resource, pending additional arbitration rulings. They are estimated to be about $169 million in luxury tax liabilities, leaving them well below next year’s $233 million base tax threshold. That doesn’t include a salary of about $20 million for Clayton Kershaw, who is reportedly set to re-sign a deal. Still, the Dodgers should have plenty of financial leeway to tackle shortstop, center field, third base and rotational depth that look like the team’s biggest question marks early in the season. off season.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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