Free Agents Mariners should be wary of... #1: Cody Bellinger
After struggling immensely in his last two years with the Dodgers which saw him post a .611 OPS (66 OPS+) over 900 plate appearances, Bellinger signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs in hopes that a change of scenery would help him rediscover what made him so great at the plate. The experiment seemed to work, with Bellinger slashing .307/.356/.525 over 556 plate appearances for the third-best OPS+ of his career, behind just his MVP and ROTY seasons.
With this incredible resurgence, MLBTradeRumors is projecting him to sign a whopping 12-year, $264 million deal. At just 28 years old, this might make an important long-term piece for any franchise willing and able to cough up the cash. However, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind, especially when looking at a contract of that length.
First, it's no secret that Cody Bellinger has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the past few years, missing times for issues varying from his calf, hamstring, and most recently his knees in 2023. This issue is far more likely to get worse than it is to get better and a 12-year deal might result in six years of productive play and six years bouncing back-and-forth from the IL.
Second, his Savant page shows a sizable discrepancy between his expected and actual stats. His expected batting average of .268 was still above the league average but a far cry from the .307 he actually posted. Similarly, his expected slugging of just .434 was significantly lower than his actual slugging mark of .525. Most concerning was his average exit velocity which stood at just 87.9 mph, placing him in just the 22nd percentile amongst qualified hitters. It was even lower than the exit velocities of his past two seasons in Los Angeles which hovered around 89.0 mph.
Furthermore, his walk rate hasn't improved much either and although he significantly cut down on the strikeouts, it seems he's compensated by swinging more often and making weaker contact. His barrel rate of 6.1% is the lowest it's been in his career thus far.
There are signs of a possible return to form for Cody Bellinger, one that would see him eclipse the 1.000 OPS mark yet again and be a perennial MVP contender like the days of old. However, based on his most recent season with the Cubs, it's important to realize the surface-level statistics may be glossing over some lingering weaknesses. Even if Mariners fans do want him here.