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Former National League MVP Cody Bellinger will likely be with a new team in 2023.
Per Jon Heyman of the New York Post and MLB Network, a reunion between Bellinger and the Los Angeles Dodgers appears “unlikely” now, with multiple teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, interested in the two-time All-Star.
Coming off two disappointing seasons, the Dodgers decided to non-tender Bellinger rather than pay more than $20 million he likely would have been owed through arbitration in 2023.
The move made Bellinger one of the most intriguing free agents available, though one with significant risk. It’s been three years since he was named NL MVP and two years since he was even a league-average hitter.
Since the start of 2021, though, Bellinger has been the sixth-worst outfielder in Major League Baseball by FanGraphs‘ wins above replacement with a minimum of 900 plate appearances (0.7). He has the second-worst offensive value among all outfielders during that span (minus-27.8).
Bellinger has a .193/.256/.355 slash line with 29 homers in 239 games over the past two seasons.
Injuries have hindered Bellinger during this two-year down period. He had surgery in November 2020 after he dislocated his shoulder celebrating a homer in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.
Bellinger was ready for the start of the 2021 season, but he played in four games before suffering a hairline fracture in his left tibia when Oakland Athletics reliever Reymin Guduan accidentally cleated him on a close play at first base.
There were no known injury issues for Bellinger last season. He played in 144 games, but the problems from the previous year may have impacted his swing mechanics.
This is the story that interested teams should be telling themselves. Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal they have received multiyear offers but will most likely take a one-year deal with the hope of rebuilding his value to hit the market again in 2023.
Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post previously reported that the Colorado Rockies have an interest in Bellinger on a one-year deal.
It’s a calculated risk by Bellinger and Boras, but one with the potential to pay off hugely if he gets back to peak form. He hit .278/.369/.559 and averaged 37 homers per season from 2017 to 2019.
The Blue Jays created an opening in their lineup by trading Teoscar Hernández to the Seattle Mariners. Bellinger could be a natural replacement for him, especially for a team looking to overtake the New York Yankees atop the American League East.