Sports

Cody Bellinger returns to the Cubs for good time, not long time

Even though spring training is now in full swing, games are being played and every player is hanging dong unintentionally, the major story in MLB remained the four Scott Boras clients that had yet to sign a contract. That number dropped to three, as Cody Bellinger will be fostered by the Cubs, who took him in last year, for up to three years but possibly no more than one, if Bellinger feels after the 2024 season he has a better chance of finding a forever home. That leaves Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Matt Chapman still in the Boras shelter.

Bellinger’s contract looks a lot like the first one that Carlos Correa signed with the Twins two years ago. It’s a three-year contract in name only, with opt-out for Bellinger after the first two seasons. He’ll get more per year in the first two years than he might have had he signed long-term somewhere ($30 million per), and $20 million in the third year. The Cubs get a player they really needed to have, as they have no sure answers in center field, first base, and in the middle of the lineup. And they don’t get the shpilkes of Bellinger turning back into the turnip he was before he was punted out of Chavez Ravine and into the Friendly Confines while having him on the book for close to a decade or more.

While fans still have many knives out for Boras and are happy to mock him for holding out his clients too long, and eventually not getting them the deals everyone’s sure he promised them, it’s more that Boras just has a weird crop of clients this season. And Bellinger is no exception. While his final slash-line of .307/.356/.525, along with stellar fielding at two very different positions, suggest a very-plus player, his contact numbers suggest a zeppelin’s-worth of hot air in them. Bellinger simply didn’t hit the ball very hard at all last year, and got some extreme luck with the balls he put in play (career-high .319 BABIP), which he accentuated with career-highs in the amount of contact he made (81.2 percent). There are some serious doubts that he can repeat any of that, and no team was willing to wager an eight- or 10-year deal on it. At least we can assume.

Just Bellinger’s fielding alone makes the Cubs better than they were on Saturday, but while it’s comforting for Cubs fans to know that Jed Hoyer is actually awake, this is still a case of the front office running back last year’s team almost down to the studs and hoping Craig Counsell’s presence instead of the fog of David Ross’s idiocy bounces them from 83 wins to the 87 that it will probably take to win the Central. It’s not exactly stepping up like a team of the Cubs’ stature should, but it’s better than pissing in everyone’s ear at least.

The three Boras clients waiting to find a home aren’t any less weird or clanky. Matt Chapman’s offense has already started to decline even if he is a majestic fielder. Snell is just as likely to throw 100 innings total or have all his walks come back to bite him in the ass as he is to produce anything close to another Cy Young Award season again. Montgomery seems the surest bet as a mid-rotation stalwart, but maybe talks still center on his playoff heroics from last fall, which aren’t nearly as indicative as the seven full seasons teams have as sample. He’s a very good pitcher, but not an ace. These kinds of questions won’t follow say, Juan Soto, into the market next winter.

These three, and Boras’s asking price should it be out of line with reality, are also swimming upstream in that half the league doesn’t know where its TV money is coming from after this season, if it even knows this season. There may be the usual baseball owner screw-Boras collusion, but that doesn’t mean that half the league has uncertain budgets. How many of the 14 or so teams with assured TV deals need a third baseman or top of the rotation starter? Everyone should need one of the latter, but there aren’t enough for Boras to bounce bids off of.

What sucks is that this is not only part of any discussion of baseball these days, but common language among fans. This is Rob Manfred’s gift to the sport he despises.

Sometimes it’s the opposite of Anthony Rendon

There’ll be plenty more to say about Chelsea-Liverpool in tomorrow’s EPL wrap (yes, even though it was the League Cup final), but in a week when Anthony Rendon made it clear that it’s just a job to some athletes, which is fine, here’s Darwin Nunez reminding all of us that’s it more to some as well:



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