Sources Cody Bellinger Cubs agree to three year 80 million deal

Sources: Cody Bellinger, Cubs agree to three-year, $80 million deal

  • Sources Cody Bellinger Cubs agree to three year 80 million deal.png&h=80&w=80&scale=crop

    Jeff Passan, ESPNF, February 25, 2024, 2:18 a.m. ET


      ESPN MLB Insider
      Author of The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports

Center fielder Cody Bellinger and the Cubs have agreed to a three-year, $80 million contract, sources told ESPN. After his outstanding 2023 season with Chicago, this ends an extended free agency with a return commitment.

According to sources, Bellinger, 28, will receive an opt-out after the first and second years of the agreement. According to sources, he will receive a salary of $30 million this season, $30 million in 2025 (if he doesn't opt ​​out after the first year) and $20 million in 2026 (if he opts out after the second year doesn't get out).

After a season in which he hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs, Bellinger hit free agency in hopes of securing a mega-contract. A robust market never materialized, and Bellinger followed a similar path to Carlos Correa, with whom he shares a common agent in Scott Boras.

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Before the 2022 season, Correa signed a three-year, $105 million contract with Minnesota, although no team offered a longer-term contract that he felt was worth signing. Correa opted out after the first season and returned to the Twins on a six-year, $200 million contract after medical problems scuppered agreements with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets. Bellinger's deal is still pending.

Bellinger's health in 2023 allowed him to thrive in a season that earned him the National League Comeback Player of the Year. Finishing 10th in the NL MVP voting, Bellinger was able to nearly halve his strikeout rate compared to previous seasons and also proved adept against left-handed pitching, hitting .337 with a .984 OPS against them.

Before joining the Cubs, Bellinger had endured two poor seasons after being hampered by a lingering shoulder injury in the 2020 playoffs. And although he posted the lowest average exit velocity of his career in 2023 – just 87.9 mph – Bellinger often reduced his swing to two strikes, providing softer contact but avoiding strikeouts. His whiff rate dropped to a career low of 15.6% as he hit .279 with two hits, second in baseball all-time behind Luis Arraez.

Bellinger returns to a Cubs team that has patiently waited for a free agent market that still includes NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, World Series star Jordan Montgomery and All-Star include third baseman Matt Chapman. After signing left-hander Shota Imanaga to a four-year, $53 million contract, the Cubs signed reliever Hector Neris to a one-year, $9 million contract. Chicago also traded former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Michael Busch, who will compete for the first base job.

Bellinger can play there or in center, and the Cubs valued the versatility last season, using him 84 times in the outfield and 59 times in the infield. He established himself as a star at two positions with the Dodgers, with whom he won NL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was named NL Most Valuable Player in 2019 with hits of .305/.406/.629.

He missed the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season and things got even worse in 2021, hitting .165/.240/.302 with 10 home runs in 95 games. With his health still in question during the 2022 season, he hit .210/.265/.389 with 19 home runs in 144 games and was not called up by the Dodgers this season.

Bellinger went to Chicago for $17.5 million, won a Silver Slugger, waived a $25 million option for the season and entered a market that seemed promising for the best hitter available. General managers thought the initial price was too high, and as Bellinger remained on the market, the number of teams committed to spending money dwindled.

Teams have pointed out that uncertainty over local television broadcast rights is an incentive not to spend. Aside from the Dodgers — who have committed well over $1 billion — no team has exceeded the $200 million mark in spending on free agents.

ESPN's Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.