Cubs Rumors: Harrison Bader floated as potential Cody Bellinger replacement
The Cubs face several high-leverage free agent decisions, but none bigger than Cody Bellinger. After a renaissance season on a one-year contract, Bellinger is expected to demand a pricey long-term deal. He opted out of a $25 million mutual option with the Cubs and his next contract should exceed that number annually by a considerable amount.
If Chicago finds itself in need of outfield help, several viable options populate the free agent market — all of them cheaper than Bellinger. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com points to Harrison Bader as a clean fit.
"Bader continues to be an elite center fielder, ranking in the top 10 percent of the league in both range and arm strength, but for those who believe availability is the most valuable ability, Bader leaves something to be desired. He hasn’t played more than 103 games in a season since 2019, and he’s never reached the 140-game mark during his six full seasons in the Majors. Since setting career highs with 16 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 2021, Bader is averaging six homers, 35 RBIs and a .635 OPS over the past two seasons."
Bader would certainly mesh with the Cubs' theme of incredible defense. With upstart Pete Crow-Armstrong flashing his impressive glove in centerfield late last season, Chicago could put together one of the top outfield defenses in the MLB. Of course, there's still the offensive side of the coin. Bader went .232/.274/.348 at the plate with seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 344 plate appearances (98 games) last season. Not exactly Cody Bellinger-level stuff.
He's a fine bat and an elite glove. That could make him a suitable replacement, especially if the Cubs target offense elsewhere. The Pete Alonso buzz certainly isn't going anywhere. Bader was waived by the Yankees in August before latching on with the Reds to finish the season. Availability is the major question mark. Chicago would have to invest in reserves too, but Bader is a worthy signing if the Cubs can't keep Bellinger around.