Cubs sign ex-NL MVP Bellinger to man center field

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger celebrates a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 7 of the 2020 National League Championship Series in Arlington, Texas.

    Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger celebrates a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 7 of the 2020 National League Championship Series in Arlington, Texas. Associated Press/Oct. 18, 2020

 
 
Updated 12/6/2022 10:02 PM

The Cubs filled their hole in center field on Tuesday, signing free-agent center fielder Cody Bellinger to a one-year contract.

The New York Post's Jon Heyman first reported the deal. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the contract is worth $17.5 million pending a physical.

 

During his six-year run with the Dodgers, Bellinger was the National League's MVP in 2019 while hitting .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs and 115 RBI.

The left-hander fell on hard times the last two seasons, batting .165 in 2021 and .210 this year.

Bellinger, who had major shoulder surgery following the 2020 season, was non-tendered by Los Angeles in November.

In 2021, he was on the injured list with a left shin fracture, left hamstring tightness and a left rib fracture.

"Obviously, it's been a unique path for Cody as he's battled through injuries and worked diligently over the past few years to return to his all-star-caliber performance," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "However, it hasn't played out as we all would have hoped or expected and therefore, we had to make the difficult decision to non-tender."

While he is also a standout defender at first base, the 27-year-old Bellinger is expected to spend most of his time in the middle of the Cubs' outfield, between Ian Happ in left and Seiya Suzuki in right.

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"I remember when he first got in the league, first base, smooth hands," Cubs manager David Ross told reporters at the winter meetings Tuesday. "A dynamic center fielder, great outfielder. Hasn't had the success he had early on, but definitely a lot of potential for a great player. He's a really good fit from a perspective of it is great defense, great baserunning, left-handed bat with the potential to have an uptick offensively if that works out."

A healthy Bellinger undoubtedly has a better chance of producing instead of underperforming.

"I think that's got to play a part in it," Ross said. "Playing through an injury, trying to come back and learning how to balance, wanting to be out on the field and actually getting fully healthy I think is what a lot of players in my experience deal with and try to rush back and maybe not getting all the way there.

"And getting into a space where you've got a leg issue, you've got a shoulder issue, you get into some bad habits. Bad habits create mistakes or make it tougher to hit, and then you get into this rabbit hole of chasing the feeling that you used to have and where you're at mechanically. There's a lot of freedom of getting a full off-season to get healthy and recognize that, and a change of scenery sometimes is a benefit for a lot of guys."

Marquez back:

After being non-tendered by the Cubs on Nov. 18, left-hander Brailyn Marquez is returning on a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

The 23-year-old starter was once a top pitching prospect, but injury issues sidelined him the past two seasons.

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