The Dodgers will not tender a contract to Cody Bellinger for his final year of arbitration eligibility, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (Twitter link). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected the 2019 NL MVP for a salary around $18.1MM. Bellinger will be a free agent once the team officially announces the decision.
It’s not a surprising move at this point, but it’s one nobody would’ve foreseen when Bellinger was collecting his MVP trophy three years ago. He blasted 47 home runs that season and posted an overall .305/.406/.629 line across 661 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter looked to have cemented himself as one of the sport’s preeminent sluggers, and he carried a career .278/.368/.559 mark in over 1800 plate appearances heading into 2020. At age 24, Bellinger seemed a budding superstar.
Unfortunately, things have gone south over the past few seasons. He stumbled a bit during the abbreviated 2020 campaign, putting up a .239/.333/.455 line in 56 games. That was still above-average production but a notable step back from the numbers of his first few seasons. A putrid .245 batting average on balls in play seemed to be a major cause of that, and one could certainly point to the anomalous circumstances that year in anticipating a bounceback.
That’s not how things have played out, seemingly in part due to an ill-advised celebration that postseason. Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder celebrating a crucial home run in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS. While he played out the postseason, 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 slash line plummeted to a meager .165/.240/.302 in 95 games.
L.A. brought him back last winter, avoiding arbitration on a $17MM salary. Their hoped-for bounceback season didn’t really materialize, though. Bellinger’s 2022 numbers were improved from the prior year but nowhere near those of previous seasons. In 550 trips to the plate, he put up a .210/.265/.389 mark. That brings him to exactly 900 plate appearances over the past two years, in which he’s hit .193/.256/.355. His on-base percentage is lowest among the 151 hitters with 900+ trips to the dish, while his batting average bests only that of Joey Gallo. He’s sixth from the bottom in slugging.
Bellinger’s batted ball metrics and power output have taken a step back, which could indicate he’s never quite…