Since their best centerfield prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong, is still a year away from the Major Leagues, the Chicago Cubs will be looking to improve upon the combination of Christopher Morel and Rafael Ortega, that mostly played centerfield for the team last season.
As two of its top prospects, Alexander Canario and Brennan Davis, enter the 2023 season with injury worries, the Cubs’ desire to add a centerfielder this winter has only increased. Because of the Crow-Armstrong above, the Cubs do not have an urgent need to find a long-term solution in centerfield this offseason and are unlikely to pursue free-agent outfielder Brandon Nimmo.
Former National League Most Valuable Player Cody Bellinger is high on the list
The Cubs need to find a quick fix in centerfield, and the best option would be one that helps them improve defensively. That’s why it makes sense that former National League Most Valuable Player Cody Bellinger is high on the list of free agents the Chicago Cubs want to sign.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have until this Friday to decide if they will tender Bellinger, their previous Rookie of the Year, a contract for the 2023 season, so he is yet to be a free agent. It has been widely speculated that the Dodgers may choose to forego paying the outfielder a projected $18 million for 2023 and instead non-tender him on Friday due to Bellinger’s offensive figures having a severe regression since 2019.
If a trade is made, the Cubs would be responsible for paying Bellinger’s estimated $18 million salary
It would be in the Dodgers’ best interest to keep up the appearance that they still have faith in Bellinger, even though he will be 27 years old at the start of the 2023 season. This could prompt teams like the Cubs, who seem to have Bellinger as a top priority, to consummate a trade with the Dodgers before the market has even fully developed.
In this way, the Cubs would secure their center fielder of choice without running the danger of Bellinger being signed by another team on Friday, should he become a free agent. If a trade is made, the Cubs would be responsible for paying Bellinger’s estimated $18 million salary, which is around $6 million more than he would likely collect on a short-term deal in free agency.
A team in a significant market that has less than $100 million committed to payroll for the 2023 season should be willing to incur the risk of making such an offer, even if it would be an overpay by conventional standards.