Cody Bellinger reportedly returns to Cubs on 3-year, $80M deal after bounce-back season

Cody Bellinger’s long free agency finally came to a conclusion early Sunday morning, with the All-Star outfielder reportedly agreeing to terms on a three-year, $80 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. He was the No. 5 free agent on Yahoo Sports’ top-25 list.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, Bellinger will have opt-outs after the first and second years of his contract. He’ll reportedly make $30 million in 2024, $30 million in 2025 and $20 million in 2026 if he remains with the Cubs for the final year of the deal.

Bellinger, 28, is back with the Cubs after turning in a dynamite season for them in 2023. He hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, finished 10th in National League MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger Award. It was the comeback season he needed to reestablish himself as an offensive threat and show he could be a positive addition to any MLB lineup.

But you can’t have a comeback season without first having something to come back from, and Bellinger’s last few seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers were exactly that. In six years with L.A. (he was drafted by the Dodgers in 2013), Bellinger went from being the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year and 2019 NL MVP to having the lowest on-base percentage in the league and an average barely above the Mendoza line in 2022.

Some of that was due to injury. He had a shoulder issue that required surgery in late 2020 and continued to bother him through the 2021 season. He sustained a hairline crack in his fibula after a collision in April 2021 that caused him issues even after he returned from rehab, and later in the season, he fractured a rib in another collision. His .165/.240/.302 batting line was a career low, but a breakout in the playoffs caused optimism for 2022.

Then Bellinger’s 2022 didn’t go much better. He avoided injury and played 144 games, but his bat was cold all season. He ended the year hitting .210/.265/.389 and became a free agent for the first time after the Dodgers decided not to offer him a contract.

That’s where the Cubs came in. Bellinger signed with the team on a one-year deal in December 2022 and hit the ground running in 2023. He batted .271 through May 15, then missed a month due to a knee injury. When he returned in mid-June, he immediately went to work raising his average, and after July 14, it didn’t drop below .300 again. He appeared to be back to the Bellinger everyone remembered.

And that’s the Bellinger the Cubs want back. That’s the Bellinger the Cubs need back. Their most significant move this offseason until now was snatching manager Craig Counsell from the National League Central rival Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs needed a big on-field addition, and they’ve finally made it. Fortunately, he’s already familiar with the Cubs, so he should be able to hit the ground running in spring training.

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