As the clear #2 position player available in this year’s free agent market, Cody Bellinger is a sensible fit for a handful of teams. The Yankees and Giants were the most common speculated suitors going into the offseason, and that buzz has continued in the first couple weeks.
Bellinger is on the Yankees’ radar as they look for one or two lefty-hitting outfielders. Meanwhile, San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made clear the team is looking to upgrade its outfield defense, calling center field a priority. Each of Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Jesse Rogers of ESPN wrote yesterday that Bellinger is indeed on San Francisco’s radar.
While the links to both franchises are expected, it’s unclear how aggressively Bellinger’s incumbent team plans to pursue him. Heyman lists the Cubs alongside the Yankees and Giants as early favorites to land the two-time All-Star, while Rogers is more pessimistic, writing that the Cubs are unlikely to engage in a bidding war for the 28-year-old outfielder. Rogers unsurprisingly suggests that Chicago will be involved in the Shohei Ohtani pursuit, noting that some believe the Cubs are likelier to land the two-way star than they are to re-sign Bellinger. Ohtani is obviously the more desirable player, but is also likely to sign for at least double (quite likely more) the amount of guaranteed money.
At the same time, it’d be logical in some sense for the Cubs to allow Bellinger to move on. Top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong is viewed as the organization’s center fielder of the future, and he reached the majors late in 2023 after hitting .283/.365/.511 between the top two minor league levels. Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki are on multi-year commitments in the corner outfield. While Bellinger can play first base, much of his value is tied to his ability to play strong defense at the outfield’s most demanding position.
The left-handed hitter had a strong season at Wrigley Field. After his dismal 2021-22 numbers led to a non-tender with the Dodgers, Bellinger inked a $17.5MM guarantee with the Cubs. He hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs and 20 stolen bases through 556 trips to the plate. Bellinger cut his strikeouts to a personal-low 15.6% clip, although his batted ball metrics figure to give some teams pause. His 31.4% hard contact percentage only ranked in the 10th percentile among qualified hitters.
Bellinger rejected a qualifying offer after declining his end of a mutual option for…