Cody Bellinger returning to Cubs, looking for playoffs and next big contract: ‘I was craving baseball’


The waiting game is finally over for Cody Bellinger and the Chicago Cubs. Five months elapsed between Bellinger’s last game in a Cubs uniform and Wednesday’s news conference at the team’s Arizona complex. If Bellinger doesn’t opt out of his three-year, $80 million contract after this season, then it means something went wrong.

At this point, Bellinger just wants to play. A free agent doesn’t dream about signing in late February after the start of spring training. The long-term, nine-figure deal that agent Scott Boras historically delivers for his top clients didn’t materialize for Bellinger this time. It can also be rationalized that Bellinger landed in the right place because the Cubs represent his best chance to prove that he can still be a superstar.

“I was craving baseball,” Bellinger said. “I was fiending for it. I was doing what I could in the offseason, enjoying all my family time, doing everything I could physically and mentally to stay ready for when the moment came.”

GO DEEPER

The shadow Cody Bellinger’s lingering free agency cast over Cubs camp has finally subsided

The Cubs don’t share the same skepticism that followed Bellinger’s sharp downturn with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which saw him go from 2019 National League MVP to 2020 World Series champion to non-tendered after the 2022 season. Those concerns filtered through Bellinger’s Comeback Player of the Year campaign in Chicago. Teams that lean harder toward analytics could question Bellinger’s poor metrics in terms of hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity and anticipate regression. The freak injuries earlier in Bellinger’s career also had to be part of the risk assessment.

Up close, the Cubs saw a left-handed hitter who enjoyed working on his swing and interacting with his teammates around the batting cage. The results — a .307 batting average, 26 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 97 RBIs — reflected hard work and situational awareness. Bellinger didn’t step into the batter’s box with an all-or-nothing mentality.

The Cubs have a convenient setup as a Cactus League team with a headquarters near Bellinger’s home. Bellinger already built good relationships in the clubhouse and with the team’s coaches and trainers. Cubs fans won’t turn on Bellinger if he starts slow in April because they already saw how he delivered in the clutch. All these factors should help Bellinger as he gets up to speed.

“Everyone knew how great of a time I had last year,” Bellinger said while sitting in between Boras and Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. “I trusted the process. I was in constant communication with Scott over here in understanding what was going on and super-aware of the situation.”

Though the Cubs aren’t the runaway favorites in the National League Central, adding Bellinger to the lineup makes them a strong contender to win a weak division. The organization’s pitching depth is solid. The farm system is ascending. Craig Counsell is the best manager in the division, if not the entire sport. Hoyer’s front office will have the resources to buy at the trade deadline.

The Cubs weathered a slow winter and accomplished their offseason goals. Bellinger, who will turn 29 this summer, can earn that megadeal by staying healthy, leading his team back into the playoffs and performing in October.

“Ultimately, that’s the goal,” Bellinger said. “I fully believe in myself as a baseball player.”

Required reading

(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top