Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger didn’t get the start in center field on Saturday night against the Padres, despite San Diego sending right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove to the mound. Instead, L.A. manager Dave Roberts chose to go with Trayce Thompson in center and Chris Taylor in left.
The decision was partly based on career number against Musgrove, as Bellinger is just 2-for-17 in his career against the righty. Musgrove also has reverse splits, meaning even though he’s a right-handed pitcher, right-handed hitters have better number against him on the season.
Still, it was a striking decision considering that Bellinger was the National League Most Valuable Player just three years ago and he’s only 27 years old, an age where he should be in his prime.
But Bellinger batted just .210 with a .654 OPS this season (78 OPS+), his second straight year being at least 22 percent worse than league average offensively. He showed signs throughout the season of getting on track, but those came in spurts and were never sustainable.
And now, with the Dodgers’ season over, Los Angeles is faced with a very real, very tough choice: keep Bellinger or kick him to the curb. As Bill Plunkett reports in the Orange County Register, it’s not an easy decision.
“I think a lot of that gets into the totality of what our payroll is and what our needs are,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said when asked about the possibility of making Bellinger a non-tendered free agent. “All things that we will focus in on a lot more after the season.”
Bellinger made $17 million this year, so if the Dodgers do tender him a contract, he would make at least $13.6 million in 2023, as the arbitration rules don’t allow for more than a 20% pay cut from one year to the next.
The Dodgers could tender him a contract and shoot for that $13.6 million mark. They could also non-tender him and then try to negotiate a return to L.A. at a lower salary. Or they could cut bait altogether and move a different direction in center field, whether that’s prospect James Outman or someone from outside the organization.
This will be one of the most fascinating offseason storylines for the Dodgers and their fans.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube Channel yet? Subscribe and hit that notification bell to stay up to date on all the latest Dodgers news, rumors, interviews, live streams, and more!