Cody Bellinger non-tendered by Dodgers

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In a move unthinkable just two seasons ago, the Dodgers decided not to enroll outfielder Cody Bellinger before Friday’s deadline. The move makes Bellinger, the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player, a free agent for the first time in his career.

Bellinger would make about $18 million to $20 million during his final season of arbitration. Given Bellinger’s sub-par production at the plate in each of the past two seasons, that was a figure the Dodgers were not comfortable paying for Bellinger, leading them to make the difficult decision.

The move doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Bellinger’s time in Los Angeles. According to one source, the Dodgers will try to bring Bellinger back at a lower price, but that will be an uphill task as the midfielder’s market is expected to have many suitors.

Bellinger’s expected large pool of suitors will be because of the possibility of him taking advantage of what once made him one of the top players in the league. Bellinger hit 39 home runs in 2017 and took home the NL Rookie of the Year Award. In ’19, he hit 47 home runs and beat Christian Yelich for his first MVP Award.

That kind of production became what the Dodgers and Bellinger expected, but it became impossible to recreate. In ’20, Bellinger dislocated his non-throwing shoulder when he celebrated a homer in Game 7 of the NLCS. He underwent off-season surgery that sidelined him for a few weeks in Spring Training.

During the first week of the ’21 season, Bellinger broke his left fibula during a freak play against the A’s. Dealing with injuries, Bellinger was never able to get going at the plate, finishing the year with 10 homers and a .542 OPS, one of the worst in the Majors among qualifying hitters.

Going into the ’22 season, the Dodgers and Bellinger were optimistic about a recovery season. Bellinger came to Spring Training excited about his extra strength. But the results never came and he posted a .654 OPS in 144 games in ’22. That lack of production eventually led to the Dodgers benching Bellinger in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Padres, even with right-hander Joe Musgrove on the mound.

Bellinger turns 27 next season and still plays elite defense in midfield. The argument for offering him a contract revolved around giving him one last chance to sort things out in Los Angeles. But with the Dodgers having to upgrade other positions on the roster, primarily the starting pitching staff, his price tag became too high at this point in the offseason.

With Bellinger off the roster, the Dodgers have scheduled Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor to play center field. Mookie Betts can also flip over from time to time. They also keep an eye on free fielders like Kevin Kiermaier.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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