Today was the deadline to tender contracts to players under team control, and there was obviously one glaring decision the Dodgers had to make on a player: Cody Bellinger.
Well, the Dodgers found Cody’s likely price tag of ~$18 million too much and did not tender the former MVP center fielder a contract.
While there will pushback against the move, it’s sadly completely understandable, as Bellinger has struggled mightily. You know the deal by now, he’d be the worst-hitting qualifying outfielder over the last two years (69 wRC+), his bounceback year in 2022 was becoming fringe-average overall as opposed to one of the worst players in baseball, and the Dodgers themselves had so little confidence in him that he was benched in the pivotal Game 4 of the 2022 NLDS.
There is effectively nothing to be optimistic about in terms of his results at the plate. His strikeout and walk rates got worse for the third year in a row, and the same go for his ISO and xwOBA, so the power and contact quality haven’t been improving either. Effectively, the only reason to give him ~$18 million is the upside of 2019, and the only reason to believe he could get it back is a belief in his health, work ethic, and talent. Yet now, the people best positioned to judge those attributes have made their call, and it’s hard to argue with them based on the information we have.
Still, that kind of talent indeed does not evaporate, even if the key to unlocking it might be hidden behind the world’s greatest maze right now, and it leaves the Dodgers without a center fielder. Thus, I have to imagine the Dodgers might try to bring him back on a lesser salary. But if they don’t, the market for center fielders is thin and the trade candidates would be costly, adding yet another hole the front office will have to fill.
Granted, they already seem to be on another player.
Whatever happens, if this is the end, I certainly will remember the good times. They definitely don’t win the World Series in 2020 without him.
In addition to Bellinger, the Dodgers also non-tendered Edwin Rios and the recently-acquired Luke Williams.
Williams is not much of a shock, and the Dodgers will presumably look to get the utility depth back on a minor-league deal now that he’s off the 40-man. However, Rios is a bit surprising as he had a decent rebound year in limited 2022 chances after shoulder surgery. Based on the strength of his results in years where he’s not playing with one shoulder, he should easily find a job next year somewhere.
In less important news, the Jake Reed is back with the Dodgers yet again after they claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox.
He has just a 5.74 ERA in 26.2 innings over the last two years as a journeyman reliever, and there’s nothing particularly notable about his numbers. However, his arm angle continues to be intriguing for teams like the Dodgers in hopes that he finally puts together a consistent year.
In retrospect, this team could’ve used more over-the-top reactions like he had after locking down his first save in a seemingly meaningless game.