One of the biggest questions the Dodgers are facing this offseason is what to do with Cody Bellinger. On the one hand, Bellinger won the MVP Award just three years ago and is only 27 years old. On the other hand, he took a big step back in 2020, an even bigger step back in 2021, and not nearly enough of a step forward in 2022, when he posted a 78 OPS+ in 550 plate appearances.
Bellinger would make at least $14 million in arbitration, and realistically it would be closer to the $17 million he made in 2022 (players rarely take a pay cut in arbitration). So the Dodgers are forced to decide whether to offer Belli arbitration or non-tender him and either go a different direction or try to bring him back at a lower dollar amount.
As L.A. president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Tuesday, the team still hasn’t made that tough decision.
Friedman said Dodgers haven't decided whether they will tender Cody Bellinger a contract yet (deadline is Nov. 18)
Said they "still very much believe in Belli’s ability" but added "we still have time to work through what everything looks like.”
— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) November 9, 2022
“We still very much believe in Belli’s ability and we got to see firsthand how hard he worked throughout the season,” Friedman said. “Obviously, he’ll be the first to tell you that it was below the expectations that he has for himself. And right now, I know he’s working with our [hitting] guys and doing everything he can to put himself in position to be a real force for us next year. But we still have time to work through what everything looks like.”
It sounds like Bellinger is essentially taking part in an extended tryout in Arizona, trying to prove to himself and the team that the guy who was the best player in baseball in 2019 is still in there somewhere. Los Angeles doesn’t need the MVP version of Bellinger to return — although that would be very nice. They’d be perfectly happy with the 2018 version that was 20 percent better than league average offensively and played Gold Glove defense.
It’s hard to give up on an elite talent during what should be his prime, so it makes sense that the Dodgers will take every minute they have available to try to figure out if that elite talent will ever show up again.
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