Sources: Cody Bellinger, Cubs agree to 3-year, $80 million contract

Center fielder Cody Bellinger and the Cubs have agreed to terms on a three-year, $80 million contract, ending a protracted free agency with Chicago at best after the 2023 season, sources told ESPN.

Bellinger, 28, will receive opt-outs after the first and second years of his contract, sources said. Sources say he will earn $30 million this season, $30 million in 2025 (if he doesn't opt ​​out after the first year) and $20 million in 2026 (if he doesn't opt ​​out after the second year).

Coming off a season in which he hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs, Bellinger hit free agency hoping to land a mega-contract. A stronger market never materialized, and Bellinger took the same path as Carlos Correa, with whom he shared an agent in Scott Boras.

Prior to the 2022 season, Correa signed a three-year, $105 million contract with Minnesota, at a time when any team considered a long-term deal worth signing him to. Correa left after the first season and medical issues prevented deals with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets before returning to the Twins on a six-year, $200 million deal. Bellinger's contract is pending.

Bellinger's health in 2023 allowed him to flourish in a season that earned him the Major League Player of the Year. Finishing 10th in NL MVP voting, Bellinger nearly halved his strikeout rate from previous seasons and proved adept against left-handed pitching, hitting .337 with a .984 OPS against them.

See also  Toyota agrees to union demands for biggest wage hike in two decades

Before joining the Cubs, Bellinger sat out the 2020 playoffs for two seasons with a shoulder injury. Although he produced the lowest average exit velocity of his career in 2023 — just 87.9 mph — Bellinger often shortened his swing by two strikes, making soft contact but avoiding strikeouts. His whiff rate dropped to 15.6% as he hit .279 with two strikeouts, second in all of baseball behind Luis Ares.

Bellinger returns to a Cubs team patiently awaiting a free agent market that includes NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, World Series star Jordan Montgomery and All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman. After signing left-hander Shoda Imanaka to a four-year, $53 million deal, the Cubs added reliever Hector Neris to a one-year, $9 million deal. Chicago traded for former Los Angeles Dodgers Michael Bush, who will compete for the first base job.

Bellinger can play there or in center, and the Cubs valued versatility last season, using him 84 times in the outfield and 59 times in the infield. He established himself as a dual-level star with the Dodgers, winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was the NL Most Valuable Player in 2019 after hitting .305/.406/.629.

He struggled through a Covid-shortened 2020 season and had a poor 2021, hitting .165/.240/.302 with 10 home runs in 95 games. With his health still in question for the 2022 season, he batted .210/.265/.389 with 19 home runs in 144 games and was not tendered by the Dodgers that season.

Bellinger went to Chicago for $17.5 million, won a Silver Slugger, picked up a $25 million option for this season, and entered a promising market for a top hitter. General managers considered the initial price tag too high, and as Bellinger remained on the market, the number of teams willing to spend money shrank.

See also  GOP leader McCarthy is fighting a historic battle for his political future

Teams have pointed to the uncertainty of local-TV broadcast rights as an incentive not to spend. Other than the Dodgers — who did more than $1 billion — no other team exceeded $200 million in free agent spending.

ESPN's Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *