Cody Bellinger was not supposed to be in this situation.
He had an impressive bounceback season with the Chicago Cubs following a pair of disappointing years in Los Angeles. Bellinger produced an impressive .307/.356/.525 batting line over his 556 plate appearances, hitting 26 homers and 29 doubles while stealing 20 bases. His ability to play both center and first, coupled with that performance, made Bellinger one of the top free agents on the market.
Bellinger was expected to find a home with relative ease. Instead, he is still languishing in free agency in the middle of January. As Patrick Mooney of The Athletic noted, Bellinger’s availability became a focal point of the 2024 Cubs Convention, with fans chanting “Co-dy! Co-dy!” when team chairman Thomas Ricketts took the stage during the opening ceremonies. Shortstop Dansby Swanson also made reference to Bellinger, saying that “before we get to next year, we got to re-sign Belli.”
The Cubs do have openings. First base is a question mark heading into the season, with Patrick Wisdom currently sitting atop their depth chart. Pete Crow-Armstrong is one of the top prospects in the game and is expected to start in center but it is fair to wonder if he will hit enough. Bellinger could also be an insurance policy in case they need more production there.
At the same time, there are concerns as to whether or not Bellinger can replicate his 2023 performance. His 31.4% hard hit rate and 87.9 mph average exit velocity were the worst marks of his career. Meanwhile, he had a .319 batting average on balls in play, his best showing. Bellinger made more contact and got better results, but that showing may not be sustainable.
There is also a matter of his contract demands. Back in December, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that Bellinger is looking for over $200M in his next contract. Teams may want to see more than one strong season since 2021 before giving him that type of deal.
Until that happens, Cubs fans will be clamoring for Bellinger to return. They may get their wish.