The former National League Most Valuable Player just became a free agent
The St. Louis Cardinals were among the teams that had to make difficult decisions regarding arbitration eligible players this past week, deciding to non-tender former All-Star Alex Reyes in the process. The Los Angeles Dodgers decided to non-tender another former National League All-Star and former MVP as well in Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger, 27, is a two-time All-Star center fielder and won National League Most Valuable Player in 2019 after hitting .305/.406/.629 with 47 HR and 115 RBI for the Dodgers. He has been a Gold Glover in the past as well and has career OPS of .819. Why on earth would a player this good end up being non-tendered by the Dodgers?
Bellinger began to struggle a bit during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but after suffering a freak shoulder injury in the NLCS, he has never been the same player. In 2021, his OPS dropped down to .542, and in 144 games in 2022, he slashed .210/.265/.389 with 19 HR and 68 RBI for Los Angeles.
Why would the Cardinals be interested in a player who seems to be getting worse, not better? There have been no indications so far that they are, but considering the kinds of players they are targeting right now, there has been speculation that St. Louis could make a run at Bellinger.
Cody Bellinger could one of the left-handed bats they add to the roster
The speculation really stems from the Cardinals targeting a left-handed bat for their lineup, and potentially needing depth at the center field spot, especially if they end up trading some of their outfield options.
Let’s be clear, there is no way that Bellinger should be the main left-handed options that St. Louis brings in this off-season. That would be insane, as they already have a few different guys on their roster that they are crossing their fingers about. Honestly, even considering Bellinger as a fourth outfielder for the team seems farfetched considering the kind of money he will probably get on the market.
Still, with the club reportedly having interest in Kevin Kiermaier, would Bellinger be that bad of an option? I guess not. Sure, a change of scenery could be all he needs, but he’s likely never going to be that impact bat he once was. Could be bat toward the bottom of your order and provide value defensively and on the base paths? He sure could.
If you’re one who is calling for the Cardinals to go after Bellinger, I understand the thought process. But realistically, he does not appear to be a good fit for St. Louis, and they’d be much better off pursuing one of these left-handed bats this off-season.