Cody Bellingera 27-year-old outfielder who was MVP in 2019, did not receive an offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team announced Friday, a somewhat expected move that nonetheless caps his precipitous decline offensively.
Bellinger was due to earn approximately $18 million in 2023, which would have been his final season before free agency. Instead, he’ll venture onto the free agent market a year early, though the Dodgers could always renegotiate a different contract, perhaps one that covers multiple years at a lower price.
Still, a Dodgers team coming off back-to-back 100-plus win seasons is suddenly in need of a center fielder. Bellinger continued to provide Gold Glove-caliber defense at that position, along with increased speed on the bases, but his offensive woes became too unbearable at his current pace.
The teams faced a deadline Friday to decide whether to submit a 2023 contract to their arbitration-eligible players. The Dodgers said they also did not offer offers to the outfielder. luke williams and the infielder Edwin Rios.
Bellinger was named the National League MVP after a 2019 season in which he slashed .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs, 115 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for a value of 7.7 FanGraphs wins over replacement. Since then, though, he’s slashed .203/.272/.376 in a 295-game regular-season stretch. His .648 OPS from 2020 to 2022 ranked 299th out of 338 qualified hitters during that period.
On the heels of an MVP and post-COVID-19-shortened spring training, Bellinger rejoined the Dodgers in the summer of 2020 with a revised hitting stance that he struggled with throughout the shortened season. He then suffered a shoulder injury during a home run celebration in the NLCS that required offseason surgery.
Recovery from that injury was seen as part of the reason for his struggles in 2021, when his batting average plummeted to .165. He switched to a more basic approach down the stretch (hands down, choked on bat) and produced in the postseason, inspiring hope heading into 2022. But Bellinger struggled once again, hitting .210 with 19 homers in 144 games for a Dodgers team that set a franchise record with 111 wins.
A tell-tale sign came in the subsequent playoffs, just before the team was eliminated by the San Diego Padres in the division series, when Bellinger sat on the bench against a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the opponents in Game 4.
It could have been his last image in a Dodgers uniform.
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Dodgers make no offer, Bellinger, free agent