Would former Dodgers star Bellinger be a good fit for the Giants? appeared first on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – During the 2021 season, while watching Cody Bellinger take early batting practice at Oracle Park, a member of the Giants staff talked about the adjustments he would try to make if he could work with Bellinger, who was struggle at the time. to push past offseason shoulder surgery. Bellinger didn’t find his old form that year and wasn’t much better in 2022, which led to a surprising result Friday for a young outfielder who was the NL MVP just three years ago.
The Dodgers non-tendered Bellinger, who was owed about $18 million in his third year of arbitration. Although president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman later told reporters he would like to bring Bellinger back at a lower number, the outfielder, for the first time in his career, is now free to negotiate with 29 other teams.
At the moment, Bellinger is deeply flawed. It also checks a lot of boxes for Farhan Zaidi and the Ravens front office.
This group has always been drawn to pedigree in the past, and Zaidi has some of the most notable success stories with top picks and former top prospects. That was part of the equation in signing Kevin Gausman, and the Giants made a big bet last season that Carlos Rodón, once the third overall pick in the draft, had more in the tank. Between hits like Darin Ruf and misses like Alex Blandino, the Giants have often gambled on players who were first-rounders or who tore up the minors much earlier in their careers.
Zaidi also had success with former Dodgers, especially Joc Pederson and Donovan Solano, an outfielder familiar with their Triple-A system. He was the general manager in Los Angeles when Bellinger won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2017, hitting 39 homers as a 21-year-old.
Zaidi isn’t the only Giant with ties to Bellinger. Gabe Kapler was the Dodgers’ farm director when Bellinger was coming through the minors, and Pederson and Alex Wood are former teammates.
The fit here is not because of connections, however.
At every opportunity, the Giants have said publicly and privately that one of their main goals this season is to get better defensively and more athletic up the middle. Bellinger was in the 92nd percentile in Outs Above Average last season and what the Giants saw in their matchups with the Dodgers matched that metric. He is above average defensively in center field and has also been a first baseman in the past, which would appeal to a team that loves defensive flexibility and will likely enter next season without Brandon Belt .
If the Giants can’t lure Aaron Judge, Bellinger in center field would allow them to move Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater back to the corners and turn the outside defense from a liability to a strength.
Of course, there’s a reason the Dodgers — who can afford anyone — decided Bellinger wasn’t worth the going rate.
Since winning the MVP Award in 2019, Bellinger has hit .203 with a .648 OPS and 41 homers in more than 1,100 plate appearances. As tempting as it is to imagine him putting one in the gap at Oracle Park and giving up doubles and triples with his above-average speed, he’s been swinging and missing too often in recent years to do that. even.
Bellinger struck out 150 times last season and there isn’t much in his batting profile that suggests better days are ahead. He ranked in the bottom half of the league in hard percentage and bottom fifth in expected slugging percentage.
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The team that signs Bellinger this winter will promise that he is stronger with more time away from his 2020 shoulder surgery, which came after he injured himself during a postseason celebration. The team’s hitting coaches and analytics team would also be at stake, and while the Giants are extremely confident in their ability to get the most out of hitters, the Dodgers do it better than anyone and have not they only managed to bring up Bellinger.
The 27-year-old probably won’t be free, either. Bellinger is a client of Scott Boras, and at the GM Meetings earlier this month, Boras called Bellinger a “five-tool player” who has been slowed by the injury and the Covid disruption.
“This guy is a great defender, great base, very accurate throwing arm, can play Gold Glove first base and center field. You don’t find talent like this at 26, 27 years old,” said Boras. “It’s really about getting his strength back so he can get back to his skill level.”
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Bellinger will likely sign a one-year contract and get back on the market next season, which should appeal to the Giants, who have gone that route again and once again with pitches that come with red flags. If the salary is significant, it would be a lot of risk for a front office that guaranteed Pederson nearly $20 million, which has Yastrzemski, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Luis Gonzalez on the roster, and there are other holes to fill.
The upside is there, though, and if Bellinger finds anywhere near his old form at the plate, someone may have the bargain of the season. At the very least, he’s an elite defender when the Giants need him, and that’s enough to make him very interesting as they look for ways to make a splash this past season.
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