A league MVP just three years ago has now been released by the team for which he became a superstar then mysteriously turned into practically an automatic out.
Cody Bellinger, who won the 2019 National League MVP, was non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers, making him a free agent.
When Bellinger made his MLB debut in 2017, he quickly burst onto the scene with his 39 home runs and 97 RBIs, winning the National League Rookie of the Year unanimously. Two years later, he hit .305 with 47 homers, 115 RBIs, and a 1.035 OPS for the 106-win Dodgers to win the MVP Award. He also won a Gold Glove in center field.
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In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he hit .239 but still won a World Series. It turned out the 60-game season was a sign of things to come.
Since the start of the 2021 season, Bellinger is hitting .193 with a .611 OPS and just 29 home runs in 239 games.
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His 2021 season was derailed by injuries after he dislocated his shoulder celebrating his NLCS-winning home run the previous October. But, even when healthy, he was never able to return to form. This past season, his .265 on-base percentage was the lowest of all qualified hitters in baseball.
Bellinger would have made a projected $18 million in arbitration this year — he made $17 million in 2022 — which would have been his final year of arbitration before hitting the free agent market. Instead, he becomes a free agent one season early.
All 30 MLB teams must decide if they will tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players by 8 p.m. ET Friday. Earlier Friday, the Mets non-tendered former first-round pick Dominic Smith.
Bellinger is still only 27 years old, so perhaps a team will take cheap flier on him in hopes he returns to the MVP-caliber player he once was.
The Dodgers also could lose Trea Turner in free agency, but they have reportedly shown interest in Aaron Judge.