With the off-season fully underway, there have been plenty of rumors swirling. Yes, Shohei Ohtani is a free agent. And while I do believe he would fit in well in Seattle, I do not believe the Mariners ownership will spend the kind of money to land Ohtani. I have never wanted to be more wrong in my life, though. But what about the consensus #2 option in free agency, Cody Bellinger?
Per ESPN's David Schoenfield, he believes that Cody Bellinger would be a fit in Seattle. Dave said this on ESPN.com's article " Best fits for the top 2023 MLB free agents". In the article, other MLB experts such as Bradford Doolittle, Buster Olney, Jeff Passan, and David all shared who their best fits for the top free agents. Cody Bellinger was the only fit for the Mariners out of the 7 players listed.
Cody Bellinger was once ranked as one of the best players in baseball. Cody is a former MVP, 2-time All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove winner. He also was a member of the 2020 World Series winning Dodgers. From his rookie season in 2017 through 2019, Cody was looking to become the face of baseball. He .278/.369/.559/.928 with a 144 OPS+. Cody had a down year in 2020, but most people thought that was because of the Covid-shortened season.
In 2021, Cody hit just .165/.240/.302/.542 with a 44 OPS+. One of the best players in baseball was completely broken. His walk rate plummeted, from a career 12.4% to just 8.9%. His strikeout rate jumped from a career average of 19.6% to a whopping 26.9%. His 2022 season was a bit better, but his walk rate dropped again to just 6.9% while striking out 27.3%. And at the beginning of the 2023 offseason, Cody was released from the Dodgers. Just 3 years after winning the MVP.
Belli signed a "prove it" type deal with the Chicago Cubs before the 2023 season, and it seems like the change of scenery really helped Cody. He completely turned his career around, having a 4.4 WAR in 2023. Cody hit .307/.356/.525 with a 133 OPS+. He also hit 26 home runs and drove in 97. His 20 stolen bases were a career-high, along with his batting average. The power numbers were a bit down, but he became an overall better hitter. He has since opted out of his contract with the Cubs and became a free agent.
Cody can play a gold glove level Centerfield, and is a real good First baseman. Jerry Dipoto and Manager Scott Service value positional flexibility, so Cody could fit right in. He will turn just 29 years old in April, so he will be entering his prime years. The Mariners need more contact hitters in their lineup, as they struggled with strikeouts in 2023.
"This is a long shot given their reluctance to sign free agents under president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, but they have to be looking at the Rangers and thinking, We have to spend some money if we want to compete with them (and the Houston Astros). The Mariners need a left-handed, middle-of-the-order bat and, after ranking second in the majors in strikeouts, perhaps one that puts the ball in play."- David Schoenfield, ESPN
What kind of contract will Cody Bellinger sign?
Signing Cody will certainly come with some serious risk. Yes, he had an amazing 2023 season. But he is just 2 years removed from one of the worst seasons by any player, EVER. Would the Mariners really be willing to risk their future by signing a player that has been so up and down? That would depend on the overall cost. MLBTR projects Cody to sign a 12-year deal, worth $264,000,000. While I like the idea of signing Cody at just $22,000,000 per season, signing him for 12 years scares me. I am not saying he does not deserve that kind of contract, but that type of deal brings some SERIOUS risk.
Would I be excited if the Mariners shelled out a 12 year deal to Cody Bellinger? Absolutely. But the Mariners need more than him to compete with the Rangers and Astros. I am afraid of the team signing Cody, and rolling out a combo of Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore every day at second base. Bellinger would be a good start, but he cannot be the only player they bring in. We cannot have another Robinson Cano situation in Sodo. As always, Go Mariners!