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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

It's Time To Get Bellinger

by Paul Semendinger

December 16, 2023


NOTE - This article appeared in the IBWAA's newsletter, Here's The Pitch, yesterday.


The Yankees have been very active in their off-season thus far. The sense is that they are far from done. The next target for the team seems to be starting pitching, especially because, to many, it seems like their outfield is set with Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, and Alex Verdugo filling the starting spots - along with slick fielding Trent Grisham in reserve.

That looks like a formidable outfield, but, at the same time, it also presents two big question marks.

First, the outfield defense is not great. This set-up lacks a full-time centerfielder. The consensus is that Aaron Judge will spend a lot of time in center. Based on the fact that Judge is getting older and he doesn't have the cleanest of injury histories, this isn't ideal.

Second, while there is debate over the best way for Juan Soto and Aaron Judge to be listed in the batting order (should it be Soto then Judge, or Judge before Soto?) the bigger question is which player should follow that dynamic duo. Who is the big hitter to protect the Yankees two best sluggers?

I have the answer. It's Cody Bellinger. The Yankees should now sign Cody Bellinger.

Bellinger solves the issues articulated aove - and more. He is a terific centerfielder. He would patrol the position in 2024, keeping it warm for the eventual return of star prospect Jasson Dominguez, hopefully in late 2024, but more likely in 2025. Bellinger is also a top hitter who would slot in magnificently behind the second player of the Yankees new slugging duo (Soto and Judge).  In addition, the Yankees' current first baseman, Anthony Rizzo is only signed for 2024. If Bellinger becomes a Yankee, he could slot in as the first baseman in 2025.  And, Bellinger would serve as insurance in case Jasson Dominguez isn't ready for prime time in 2025. 

Acquiring Bellinger would also allow the Yankees to trade, from strength, for pitching help. The Yankees seem to be front runners for Yoshinobu Yamamoto. It would be great to see him in pinstripes. But, if they fail to land Yamamoto, the likes of Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, and Everson Piereira (among others) could be used to acquire a top pitcher for the rotation.

The only reason against the Yankees adding Bellinger is the cost, but I believe that the recent Shohei Ohtani signing changes all the metrics. Completely. Absolutely. And totally.  I believe teams such as the Yankees have much more to spend than everyone seems to realize.  

And, I do not think Cody Bellinger will cost as much as many believe he will. First, his market seems soft. The original projections I read of a 12-year deal seem way off the mark. The Yankees just might be able to get Bellinger for four or five years - which would be ideal. Assuming Bellinger might command $25 million annually, let's take a look at how the Yankees can offset that cost.

MLBTR projects Alex Verdugo's 2024 salary at $9.2 million. Trent Grisham is projected at $4.9 million. Both of those players would be expendable if the Yankees acquire Bellinger. Together they will account for $14.1 million in 2024. Bellinger, thusly wouldn't be costing the Yankees an extra $25 million, his actual increase in salary to the team would only be $10.9 million. It's my opinion that he would be well worth that upgrade cost.

Projecting into 2025, the Yankees would then shed Anthony Rizzo's $17 million salary (there is a $6 million buyout) making Bellinger from 2025 forward less expensive than the combined salaries of Rizzo, Verdugo, and Grisham.

But, if the Yankees felt that they needed additional salary relief next year, with D.J. LeMahieu and Oswald Peraza (and Oswaldo Cabrera), they still have an abundance of infielders who could cover second and third base. If the Yankees went in that direction, they would also be able to trade Gleyber Torres and his projected $15.3 million salary. This would prove more than enough financial flexibility to sign Bellinger and possibly even sign a player such as Gio Urshela to play third base (allowing LeMahieu to be a fulltime second baseman).

Cody Bellinger solves a host of problems for the Yankees. He gives them a legitimate centerfielder. He provides another big bat in the lineup. Bellinger gives the Yankees insurance that will allow Jasson Dominguez to get back to the big leagues without being rushed and when the time comes, he can also slot in very well at first base. Finally, he gives the Yankees some solid big league players who they can trade to restock the farm system or (my preference) help to add to the starting rotation for next season.

To me, this seems like the move to make.

Hey, Yankees - get it done!


Paul Semendinger runs the Yankees site Start Spreading the News. He has authored numerous award-winning books. From Compton to the Bronx, which Paul wrote with Yankees great Roy White, was just named one of the Best Baseball Books of 2023 in Sports Collectors Digest.

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Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

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