Cody Bellinger is officially a free agent after his one-year prove-it deal with the Chicago Cubs has come to an end. Bellinger did everything he set out to do and then some in 2023, showing the MLB he can get back to near-All-Star level after two abysmal years with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021 and 2022.
Belli is back, and it's going to cost the Cubs if they want to keep him.
His agent, Scott Boras, has already made it clear that Chicago will need to pay through the nose to get a chance at keeping him, which they already knew. Fans are looking for whatever clues they can get on the likelihood that the Northside team can get him back.
The newest developments with Christopher Morel might not say everything, but they are interesting...
Christopher Morel a full-time 1B now for Cubs?
According to Jed Hoyer, Christopher Morel is playing first base in winter ball. He also says it's likely he will stay there.
We need follow-ups, to be sure. It's unclear if Hoyer means he'll stay there in the entire preseason run (as in, winter ball and spring training) or if he means into the regular season as well. Certainly, there's a ton of time to evaluate how it works and make an informed decision on the position. Morel has slotted into a number of defensive positions so far in his young major league career, settling in best at second base, where Nico Hoerner is slated to play next year.
But if the team plans to roll Morel out as the full-time first-baseman, it would mean if they bring Bellinger back, it would be as the team's everyday center fielder. Bellinger played mostly CF last year with some first base mixed in toward the end of the year after the team moved off of Trey Mancini.
First base occupied by Morel could be viewed one of two ways:
One, it could give the Cubs leverage to be able to offer Bellinger his preferred, comfortable position in the outfield. That might level the playing field between the Cubs and another team if a competitor is offering him a full-time outfield role vs a 1B/OF role.
Another more pessimistic read is that the Cubs have looked at Bellinger's return as unlikely, finding fill-ins for the variety of roles he played for the team last year.
Lost in all of this is Bellinger's preference. Some players later in their careers prefer to move out of the outfield due to the athletic demands. Bellinger showed no real slow down in 2023, so that feels far-fetched.
The real rub though, is that for now, these are all only tidbits, mere breadcrumbs leading to the ultimate answer on Bellinger's free agency. Soon, we'll learn more, but for now, Bellinger's fate with the Cubs remains unknown.