Cody Bellinger is a Bad Idea
by EJ Fagan
November 12, 2023
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.
Cody Bellinger is a left-handed, 28 year-old former MVP outfielder. After two down seasons, Bellinger bounced back to hit .307/.356/.525 in 2023. He has a dead pull swing for home runs. At first glance, he fits the Yankees needs perfectly.
But I really hope that the Yankees don’t sign him. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to sign a weird 12-year, $264 million contract ($22 million AAV). While I think the low AAV/12 year contract thing is a little unrealistic, the total salary looks realistic. Someone is going to offer Bellinger a really big deal.
The problem? Bellinger probably got pretty lucky in 2023:
Bellinger put up a .370 wOBA, but his xwOBA was only .331. The big reason why Bellinger’s xwOBA was so low was exit velocity. He hit the ball only 87.9 mph on average, or worse than 4 out of 5 MLB players. Statcast thinks that his ability to hit for average was real, but he got lucky in the power department.
There’s still a lot to like in Bellinger’s hitting profile. He makes a ton of contact. He runs about as fast as Anthony Volpe. He plays well above-average defense in center. He corrected a lot of the problems that led to his disaster 2021-2022 seasons.
But I think that a lot of Bellinger’s reputation is dependent on his 2019 MVP season, where he hit .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs. Since then, he’s hit more like 20-25 home runs per season.
Why was Bellinger so good in 2019? I’m putting my money on the juiced ball. He’s exactly the kind of player who would benefit from a little extra distance on his fly balls. He hits a lot of contact in the air, but not too hard. He’s a suped-up version of Gleyber Torres, who also had a career home run hitting year in 2019.
If Bellinger’s price were more reasonable, I’d love for the Yankees to sign him. He solves a lot of problems. He’s a touch younger than their current long term contracts. He might be well-positioned to benefit from the short porch in Yankee Stadium. If his price dropped to something closer to Brandon Nimmo’s 8-year, $162 million deal, then sign me up for Bellinger. Otherwise, I pass.