Major League Baseball's Hot Stove really hasn't gotten going yet, but it should fairly soon because the GM meetings were this week in Phoenix, which usually kickstarts the offseason frenzy. If we put Shohei Ohtani in a free-agent class by himself, the No. 1 bat on the market is former Cubs All-Star outfielder Cody Bellinger, and SportsLine offers odds on where he may sign.
We probably won't see Bellinger sign soon because he's such a big fish and his agent is Scott Boras, who loves dragging things out all winter if possible to try and get some last-minute owner to offer up a massive price. Boras' tactics usually work.
Boras clients usually don't give hometown discounts, so the Cubs will have to pay up to bring him back even though the franchise arguably rescued Bellinger's career. He was the 2019 NL MVP with the Dodgers but then fell off a cliff offensively for the next few years due to a shoulder injury. He had to settle for a one-year, $17.5 million "pillow contract" with the Cubbies last offseason.
That paid off big time, as the 28-year-old Bellinger hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, 97 RBIs and 20 steals in 130 games and cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 15.6% while playing his usual terrific defense in center field and first base. By all accounts, Bellinger enjoyed his season on the North Side and would be very comfortable with a return.
"There's no prediction of the future in anything," Bellinger said at the end of the season. "I really just enjoyed my time with this group of guys, with this coaching staff, playing for the Cubs organization. Wrigley Field was special."
The Cubs already made one major splash this offseason. They stunned the sport by firing popular manager David Ross and signing former Brewers manager Craig Counsell to the biggest contract in MLB history for that specific job. That clearly shows ownership is ready to spend big again after falling just short of a wild card spot this past season. The team did give Bellinger a qualifying offer worth about $20.4 million, but he naturally declined. That ensures the Cubs get a compensatory draft pick next summer if he signs with a different team.
"We'd love to bring him back. We'll have a lot of conversations with him," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at the end of the season. "Obviously it's going to play out for a while."
There may not be much drama here as the industry consensus is that Bellinger will either return to Chicago, return to the West Coast with the Giants (he's from Arizona) or head to New York and sign with the Yankees.
San Francisco so badly needs a gate attraction, as attendance is falling in the beautiful ballpark. The Giants lost out on Aaron Judge last offseason by a few million dollars, so they might overbid here to avoid that happening again.
The Yankees had a lot of issues in 2023 but by far the biggest was a lack of left-handed power hitting once Anthony Rizzo suffered a concussion in late May. He simply was not the same after that and was eventually shut down with post-concussion syndrome. Prior to the May 28 game in which Rizzo was hurt, he was hitting .304 with 11 home runs in 204 at-bats. He finished with 12 homers in 373 at-bats.
There's no question the Ohtani market could overlap, although it's widely expected that he lands with the Dodgers, and Bellinger is not going back to L.A. after the team released him last November.
Houston was linked to Bellinger this summer before the trade deadline when it looked like the Cubs would make a deal. Then Chicago got hot and became a buyer in the market. The Phillies could have a spot in the outfield with Bryce Harper now a full-time first baseman.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Which team will sign Cody Bellinger?
- Yankees +200
- Cubs +250
- Giants +400
- Astros +900
- Phillies +1000
- Red Sox +1200
- Mets +1400
- Blue Jays +1500
- Rangers +1600
- Angels +1700
- Marlins +1800
- Orioles +2000
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