The San Diego Padres need to add a proven left-handed hitter to their lineup for the 2024 season and what better way to do so than signing a former Los Angeles Dodgers star that was disrespected by the team he played so hard for?
Meet Cody Bellinger, a left-handed batter who specializes hitting against right-handed pitching (126 HRs and 360 RBI for his career).
Bellinger is one of the most impactful run-producers left in the free-agent market. The Friars are still sorting through their financial issues, but might it be possible to bring him aboard?
A move of this nature would temper the negative thoughts from the Juan Soto-New York Yankees trade in early December. The addition of Bellinger tilts the dialogue for a team coming off a disappointing 82-80 campaign. Perhaps the Friar Faithful’s expectations will change in 2024, but everyone should be concerned about the risks involved with a big free-agent signing.
Where do we begin with the positives associated with adding Bellinger to the roster? Well, he is 28 years old and in the prime of his major league career. It's not like the Padres would be signing a player whose best years are beyond him.
Granted, Bellinger was non-tendered by the Dodgers after the 2022 season. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers giving up on a player who won Rookie of the Year (2017) and National League MVP (2019) honors during his six seasons with the franchise. But he did rebound by hitting .307 with 26 HRs, 97 RBI, and a career-high 20 stolen bases in Chicago last season. It earned him the Comeback of the Year Award with the Cubs.
In 2023, poor left-handed hitting hampered the Padres' offense. Collectively, they batted .233 against right-handed pitching, as Jake Cronenworth and Matt Carpenter were inconsistent all season. The addition of Bellinger would balance a lineup that skews to the right side of the plate. His ability to put the baseball in the right field jury box at Petco Park consistently will add more punch to the offense.
Bellinger's career .829 OPS illustrates his ability to get on base. Hopefully, the basepaths will be crowded in front of Manny Machado next season. The more baserunners, the better chance of scoring more runs in 2024.
We've been talking about his offensive contributions, but Bellinger is a plus defender in the outfield. He's primarily a center fielder, but he won a Glove Glove (2019) as a right fielder with the Dodgers. He could move to left field if the Padres acquire a proven center fielder.
His athleticism would be a welcome addition as Gold Glove winner Fernando Tatis Jr. is the lone starter from last season’s unit. Both should complement one another defensively.
The biggest concern for this signing not taking place is Scott Boras (Bellinger’s agent). He is known for getting his clients big-money free-agent deals. But the market has been silent for Belliger’s services, so maybe there's a world where the Padres get off a bit easy if there's limited negotiating leverage for Boras. Crazier things have happened.
Bellinger thrives in the moment during big games. He has the pedigree to produce when the spotlight is on him and has the experience to lead a team to the postseason.
The Padres need an impactful left-handed bat, and Bellinger fits the description perfectly. Perhaps if they find a trade partner for Jake Cronenworth, they'd be able to stomach a larger financial investment such as Belli.