After an excellent season that saw a return to form for previous Rookie of the Year and MVP Cody Bellinger, the star utility player is officially a free agent after declining his end of a mutual option with the Chicago Cubs for 2024, according to Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune.
Cody Bellinger has declined his mutual option for the 2024 season, per Cubs.
The Cubs also declined the 2024 mutual option on RHP Brad Boxberger.
Cubs’ 40-man roster is now at 35 players.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) November 3, 2023
In addition to Bellinger declining his mutual option, Montemurro also reported that the Cubs declined their end of a 2024 mutual option for veteran right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger.
Boxberger appeared in just 22 games in 2023, struggling to a 4.95 ERA with 11 walks and 17 strikeouts over 20 innings.
As for Bellinger, the news likely leaves Cubs fans feeling uneasy, despite the decision being widely expected throughout the season as the former MVP bounced back after two rough seasons that concluded his tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bellinger, 28, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, posting a .307/.356/.525 slash line with 26 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 97 RBI across 130 games while providing excellent defense at both center field and first base throughout the season.
The resounding resurgence of Bellinger won him the NL Comeback Player of the Year award and two Silver Slugger nominations, with the left-handed slugger also likely to receive down-ballot MVP votes as well.
The Cubs are expected to be among several teams that pursue a long-term contract with Bellinger, whose strong 2023 campaign hopes to erase memories of a rough two-season stretch from 2021-22, including a disastrous injury-riddled 2021 season.
Playing in just 95 games, Bellinger managed just a 44 OPS+ and a .165/.240/.302 slash line, managing just 21 extra-base hits while finishing the season 1.7 wins below replacement level.
Bellinger rebounded to an extent in 2022, but was still a below league average hitter with an 81 OPS+, scuffling to just a .265 on-base percentage.
While Bellinger’s 2023 batted ball metrics that show a lot of success on soft contact that could be perceived as lucky may give teams pause on offering a pricey long-term deal, the Cubs are expected to be strong contenders to sign the former league MVP to a multi-year, nine-figure deal.
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