Report: Cody Bellinger, Cubs agree on 3-year, $80M deal

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CHICAGO — Cody Bellinger is coming back to the North Side.

After a career resurrection in Chicago in 2023 that resulted in the National League Comeback Player of the Year award, sources told ESPN that Bellinger, 28, is back with the Cubs, the two sides agreeing on a three-year, $80 million contract. ESPN first broke the news early Sunday morning.

The signing ends a lengthy free agency for the center fielder and former NL MVP, who signed with the Cubs last offseason on a one-year, $17.5 million deal, with a mutual option for 2024, after playing his first six seasons with the club that drafted him, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Bellinger hoped to get his career back on track, and he did just that in 2023, batting .307 with a .356 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging percentage for an .881 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He blasted 26 homers, drove in 97 runs and stole 20 bases, finishing 10th in NL MVP voting in his best season since winning the NL MVP award with the Dodgers in 2019.

Most importantly, Bellinger stayed healthy, appearing in 130 games for the Cubs, 84 in center field, 59 at first base and three as the designated hitter. Not surprisingly, he opted out of his contract with the Cubs, which would’ve paid him $25 million in 2024, to become a free agent.

Bellinger and his agent, Scott Boras — well-known for driving up contracts for his players — hoped that Bellinger’s comeback season would secure him a huge contract in free agency this offseason. Bellinger remained unsigned at the start of spring training, still hoping to cash in.

But, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports, that type of market never materialized for Bellinger, clearing the way for a three-year deal to return to the Cubs.

ESPN reports that, according to its sources, Bellinger will receive opt-outs after the first and second years of the deal. He will get $30 million in salary in 2024, $30 million in 2025 if he doesn’t opt out after the first year and $20 million in 2026 if he doesn’t opt out after the second year, according to sources via ESPN.

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Bellinger’s deal is pending a physical.

Bellinger, the son of former big-leaguer Clay Bellinger, was picked by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft. He burst onto the big-league scene in 2017, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. He was named an All-Star for the first time and finished ninth in NL MVP voting.

Bellinger was named the NL MVP and added a Gold Glove and another All-Star selection in 2019. But he had a down season in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, as did a number of players, and suffered a shoulder injury during the Dodgers’ 2020 postseason run that resulted in a World Series title.

Bellinger’s production fell off mightily after that, as he posted an OPS of .542 in 2021 and .654, despite playing in 144 games, in 2022. A left-handed hitter, Bellinger especially struggled against left-handed pitchers, putting up a paltry .583 OPS against them in 2022, with 44 strikeouts in 160 plate appearances.

But Bellinger rebounded against lefties in 2023, with a .984 OPS, 10 homers and just 29 strikeouts against them in 183 plate appearances.

The Cubs have not been big players in the free-agent market this offseason, despite pilfering manager Craig Counsell away from the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers in a stunning offseason move in November.

But now, by bringing back Bellinger, the North Siders have one of their key pieces in place as spring training progresses toward Opening Day on March 28 in Texas against the defending World Series champion Rangers.

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