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One of the top hitters in free agency, he was signed to a center fielder overnight Cody Bellinger He is in agreement with the Cubs on a three-year, $80MM deal. Jeff Passan of ESPN. With Pasan, the deal includes an opt-out for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Passan added that the deal is slightly front-loaded, with Bellinger making $30MM in salary in 2024 and $20MM in 2025 in 2026.

Bellinger will return to the Cubs after signing a one-year deal with the club last summer and pitching a solid campaign. In 556 trips to the plate, the 28-year-old hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs and 20 stolen bases, splitting time between center field and Chicago’s first base. That performance earned Bellinger the Silver Slugger Award and 10th place in NL MVP voting, and he looks set to cash in with a big contract this summer. MLBTR ranks Bellinger as the #2 two-way superstar free agent running back in this year’s class. Shohei OhtaniProjecting a 12-year, $264MM contract for the outfielder on our annual Top 50 MLB Free Agents list.

That prediction pretty much vindicated Bellinger’s signing position. While Bellinger entered the offseason with several big-market clubs vying for his services, including the Giants, Yankees and Blue Jays, each turned in other directions in December: San Francisco landed the KBO star. Jung Hoo Lee to the protection center, Juan Soto They were sent to the Bronx to fill their outfield left-hander void, and after missing Shohei Ohtani, the Blue Jays changed direction and instead focused on small deals for players. Kevin Kiermaier And Isaiah Kiner-Falefa. That leaves Bellinger with few obvious suitors outside of the Cubs, though free agency has continued into spring training, with the Cubs and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer remaining patient as camp approaches a long-term contract. In the end, Chicago was rewarded for its patience, as the club will retain Bellinger’s services through at least the 2024 campaign on a three-year, $105MM contract similar to the Boras Corporation client. Carlos Correa He signed with the Twins two seasons ago.

A number of factors contributed to Bellinger’s choice of a short-term deal over his relatively small number of prospects. In the year Good in 2023, the slugger struggled mightily in the 2021 and ’22 seasons as he battled shoulder issues and a torn fibula. He was able to take the field for 900 plate appearances over the course of two seasons, hitting .193/.256/.355 in that span, with a career-high .273/.364/.567 slash line. In the year

While Bellinger’s strong and healthy 2023 campaign will certainly help alleviate some of the concerns raised by his poor campaigns over the past two seasons, looking at advanced metrics, there are concerns that the 28-year-old’s 2023 campaign may not be entirely sustainable. . While Bellinger’s career-best batting average was supported by a low 15.6% strikeout rate last season, it was also supported by a .319 BABIP that shows a career-best .277 heading into the 2023 season with 40+ strikeouts.

That wealth of well-struck balls was achieved despite unusually low contact quality joints. Per Statcast, Bellinger’s average exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit percentage were all below average, landing in the 22nd, 27th, and 10th percentiles, respectively, among eligible major leaguers. Combined, those marginal numbers left Bellinger with a roughly .330 average xwOBA last year, along with a career-best .370 wOBA by 40 points. With his struggles in recent seasons and Amid concerns about his return to form in 2023, it’s not a complete shock that Bellinger would take a short-term, opt-out tough deal that preserves flexibility rather than a longer deal that adds guarantees.

Such a deal could set Bellinger up for a very lucrative payday in the future. In a recent look at MLBTR’s Steve Adams, Bellinger noted that a short-term deal might be possible, as the slugger is unusually young for a free agent, and as such could be an exception for a short-term arrangement. If Bellinger can maintain the same level of production as his 2023 rebound, he’ll be a near lock to opt out of the remaining two years and 50MM and return to free agency.

More to comeā€¦