Sources: Cody Bellinger, Cubs agree on 3-year, $80 million deal

ByABC News
February 25, 2024, 2:29 AM

Center fielder Cody Bellinger and the Cubs are in agreement on a three-year, $80 million contract, sources told ESPN, ending a prolonged free agency with a return engagement after his excellent 2023 season with Chicago.

Bellinger, 28, will receive opt-outs after the first and second years of the deal, sources said. He will receive a $30 million salary this season, $30 million in 2025 (if he doesn't opt out after the first year) and $20 million in 2026 (if he doesn't opt out after the second year), according to sources.

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

Before the 2022 season, Correa signed a three-year, $105 million contract with Minnesota when no team offered a longer-term deal he deemed worth signing. Correa opted out after the first season and returned to the Twins on a six-year, $200 million deal after medical issues scuttled agreements with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets

Bellinger's deal is pending a physical.

His health in 2023 allowed him to thrive in a season that earned him National League Comeback Player of the Year. Finishing 10th in NL MVP voting, Bellinger nearly halved his strikeout rate from previous seasons and proved adept against left-handed pitching as well, hitting .337 against them with a .984 OPS.

Before joining the Cubs, Bellinger was coming off two down seasons after he was hampered by a lingering shoulder injury from the 2020 playoffs. And even though he produced the lowest average exit velocity of his career in 2023 -- just 87.9 mph -- Bellinger often cut down on his swing with two strikes, making softer contact but avoiding strikeouts. His whiff rate plummeted to a career-low 15.6% as he hit .279 with two strikes, second in all of baseball behind Luis Arraez.

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

Bellinger can play there or 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 dual-position star with the Dodgers, with whom he won NL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was NL Most Valuable Player in 2019 after hitting .305/.406/.629.

He fell off in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and spiraled 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 batted .210/.265/.389 with 19 home runs in 144 games and was non-tendered by the Dodgers that season.

Bellinger went to Chicago for $17.5 million, won a Silver Slugger, opted out of a $25 million option for this season and entered a market that looked promising for the best hitter available. General managers deemed the initial price tag too high, and as Bellinger remained on the market, the number of teams committed to spending money shrunk.

Teams have pointed to the uncertainty of local-television broadcast rights as an impetus not to spend. Aside from the Dodgers -- who committed well over $1 billion -- no team has exceeded the $200 million mark in free agent spending.

ESPN's Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.