When the Dodgers non-tendered former MVP Cody Bellinger last month, it was both unsurprising and a shock to the system. Bellinger, who spent six seasons in Los Angeles and looked like a future Hall of Famer for the first three, had a fall so precipitous you could legitimately say it was unprecedented.
Bellinger signed with the Cubs a couple weeks ago, and at the press conference where he was officially announced — yes, most of the time, those press conferences go off without a hitch just as planned — he talked about his struggles the last couple years and the shock of being non-tendered.
“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie. But I think at the end of it all, I’m going to look back and be appreciative that it happened and going to be able to learn from it. I have learned from it. I think it’s going to be better for the longevity of my career. …
“You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. There were definitely injuries involved. Your body wasn’t moving how you’re used to. I can go on and on. But looking forward, where I’m at right now is I’m feeling really good and confident and strong. I’m looking forward to it.”
The 2023 season will be pivotal for Bellinger. His hope and goal is to bounce back, if not all the way to his 2019 levels, at least to being a very productive player. That would allow him to head into free agency next year at age 28 and bring home a lucrative deal.
But if Bellinger struggles again in 2023, his chances of a huge contract go out the window. He remains so talented that he would probably get another relatively large make-good deal next offseason, but there was a time when he was looking at a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Cody will be fine financially. After 2023, he’ll be at almost $64 million in earnings for his career. But when we’re talking about his legacy, it might be a make-or-break season.
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