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Why Dodgers must let go of Cody Bellinger

ClutchPoints logo: MainLogo ClutchPoints 11/17/2022 Owen Crisafulli
11/17/22 © Provided by ClutchPoints 11/17/22

The Los Angeles Dodgers could be set to once again make some big moves this offseason after being shockingly bested by the San Diego Padres in the NLDS to bring their 2022 season to a swift conclusion. And while they seem likely to pursue some of the big name free agents available this offseason, the Dodgers are going to have to make a decision on whether they want to hold on to Cody Bellinger any longer.

The 2019 NL MVP has struggled mightily over the past few seasons, and is entering the second to last year of arbitration in his current deal. Bellinger signed a one-year, $17 million deal last offseason, but it’s clear he did not live up to that deal at all last season. With the non-tender deadline creeping up on Friday, the Dodgers are going to have to decide whether they want to overpay for Bellinger again, or let him test free agency.

The Dodgers have some big goals this offseason, but they won’t be achievable if they continue to throw money at Bellinger just to watch him struggle. With the non-tender deadline approaching, it feels like Bellinger’s time with Los Angeles has run its course, and the team must move on from the embattled outfielder.

It’s time for the Dodgers to move on from Cody Bellinger

Through the first three seasons of his career, Bellinger looked like a star in the making. He whallopped 39 home runs in his rookie season back in 2017 to earn himself the NL Rookie of the Year award, and then was an absolute monster in 2019 when he hit .305 and smacked 47 home runs.

But ever since 2019, Bellinger has been an absolute mess. His batting average fell over 65 points in the shortened 2020 pandemic season, and then he hit .165 in 2021 while struggling to stay healthy. The hope was that Bellinger would be able to return to his All-Star form since he was healthy, but he struggled once again, and posted the worst full season of his career (.210 BA, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 14 SB, .654 OPS).

The Dodgers have team control of Bellinger since he’s eligible for arbitration, and they simply have to tender a contract to him to prevent him from hitting the open market. But is it even worth it to hold onto Bellinger anymore? He’s proven over the past three seasons that his struggles could be beyond repair, especially considering the price the Dodgers would likely have to pay to hold onto him.

Even if the Dodgers want to hold onto Bellinger, it makes sense for them to not tender a contract to him, simply because it will result in Bellinger getting paid more than he is worth. Based on his production last season, the Dodgers won’t be losing much if they don’t tender Bellinger and allow him to leave.

There’s reason to believe that Bellinger could turn things around, as he will only turn 28 next season, and after all, he has a history of dominating in this league. But at 28, you are supposed to be in your prime, not trying to figure out why you can’t play at an MVP caliber level anymore. Bellinger will likely never produce like he did in 2019 ever again, even if he is able to solve his struggles.

The Dodgers should look for a replacement for Bellinger, and if they actually want to pursue Aaron Judge in free agency, there’s literally no reason to bring Bellinger back on an overpriced deal. Los Angeles already has Mookie Betts slotted in at right field, and Trayce Thompson proved he can be an everyday player during the second half of the season. There’s a hole with Judge’s name written all over it if Bellinger is out of the picture.

L.A. could technically bring Bellinger back and make a play at Judge, but that just seems unnecessary at this point. Bellinger just isn’t worth keeping around as an everyday outfielder at this point. If he wants to test the market and come back on a far cheaper deal than the one he would get in arbitration, then it makes sense to bring him back, but otherwise the Dodgers have to cut bait with Bellinger this offseason.

Bellinger has proven for three seasons now that he isn’t the player he once was, and the Dodgers need to stop wasting money on him and invest in a replacement. Changes are going to need to be made if the Dodgers want to make it back to the World Series, and one of those changes involves moving on from Bellinger.

Whether the Dodgers will actually make the moves that need to be made to improve their roster remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Bellinger’s time in Los Angeles should come to an end this offseason.

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Nish Patel

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