Free Agent Target: Could the Mariners go after Cody Bellinger?

The Mariners have some serious question on the offensive side of the ball heading into 2024. What avenues can they pursue to fix them? How about signing the biggest free agent not named Ohtani.
Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

We are in true offseason form now. There are pieces posted daily about all of the different rumors of the Mariners. Proposed trades, free agent predictions, and how the Mariners should approach this offseason. This is my favorite time of year, refreshing Twitter and constantly searching Google. The Mariners, as every article will tell you, need offense and badly. This offense lacks at least 2 bats that are legit, proven middle-of-the-order bats. How do you solve that? Well, how about signing the best free agent player not named Ohtani?

The Mariners have been heavily discussed in the free agent market the last few years as a plethora of middle infielders were available. They were rumored to be involved in Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, and Xander Bogaerts. From the sounds of it, they have just been a year or 2 in length or a couple million per year short of securing one of those guys. Could this be the year? Could they finally snag the big fish? Is Cody Bellinger worth the money he will command? Let's see...

Cody Bellinger broke into this league and became the face of the Dodgers franchise. He was hitting 300 with 20, 30, and sometimes 40+ home runs, while stealing 15 bases and playing great defense all around. In one of the best seasons in recent memory, he was worth 7.8 wins in 2019, according to fWAR. He slashed .305/.406/.629 with an incredible 47 home runs and 15 stolen bases. That was good for a 161 wRC+.

Over the next 3 seasons, he really struggled, even putting up a negative 1 fWAR in 2021, followed up with a very bad 2022. This resulted in him being DFA'd by the Dodgers. He then signed a deal with the Cubs to try and bounce back, and boy did he. He was worth 4.1 fWAR with a .307/.356/.525 and 26 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and a 134 wRC+. He had an acceptable walk rate of 7.2%, and an impressive 15.6% strikeout rate. That strikeout rate is something Mariners fans will love after a majority of people agree that they need to cut back on the strikeouts.

Bellinger fits this team like a glove. He could play right field every day, and spell Ty France at first base if France's struggles continue or he gets hurt. He is a lefty, which, we all know, generally plays well compared to right-handed bats in Seattle. The Mariners could also really use a "left-handed element" to this lineup, as Dipoto likes to say. Slotting Bellinger in that 3 hole behind Julio to give him some protection, creates a really solid 1-2-3 in JP Crawford, Julio, and Bellinger.

The biggest question the Mariners face in the Bellinger sweepstakes is if they are willing to pay the price for him. His contract predictions have been all over the place. I think for the Mariners to get him, they will have to be aggressive. They have to be willing to go that extra year or 2 or they have to be willing to give a slightly higher AAV, and possibly both.

Spotrac, has his "market value" at 5 years and about $113 million. That's an AAV of $22.6 million, for that length and AAV, sign me up!! The Athletic has Bellinger at 6 years and $162 million. Thats an AAV of $27 million. The wild one here, is MLB Trade Rumors has Bellinger getting a 12-year and a whopping $264 million dollar contract. That is an AAV of $22 million, but that is a long contract!

I don't see that last contract happening at all. That is way too many years for a guy who has had some serious struggles. I think there is a happy medium to this, and in my opinion, the closest being The Athletic's prediction. I think the Mariners will have to give him 7 and maybe even 8 years. To pry him away from the Giants, Yankees, or Cubs they might have to give him the $24-$26 million a year. I wouldn't be surprised if it took 8 years and $200ish million dollars for the Mariners to get Bellinger.

Kris Bryant got 7 year $182 million, which is a similar deal to what I think Bellinger is going to get. Brandon Nimmo got 8 years and $162 million, which might be more in line with what is a good price for him, but again, this weak market and you get the Yankees, Cubs and Giants bidding against each other and things could escalate very quickly. My final thoughts are that if the Mariners can get him for that 7- or 8-year deal and go $24 or $25 million, I would be comfortable with it. Anything more than that is just asking too much. I just don't think the Mariners will be willing to pay even that price for him, unfortunately. Go Ms!