Should the Braves target Cody Bellinger?

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A few years ago, this move would have been unimaginable. Cody Bellinger was coming off an NL MVP as a 23-year-old, looking like one of the brightest young stars in the game. Fast forward to now, and he’s been non-tendered by the Dodgers.

MLB Trade Rumors had Bellinger’s projected arbitration salary at $18.1 million, so this move was expected. Over the last two seasons, Bellinger is hitting just .193 with a .611 OPS.

In my lifetime, this might be the most dramatic drop-off I’ve ever witnessed. Something comparable would be like Ronald Acuña turning to dust and the Braves designating him for assignment before his contract is up. Bellinger was a superstar, looking like a future Hall-of-Famer for one of the most iconic franchises on the planet. Now, he’s a free agent, and the Braves make a lot of sense for his next destination.

Outside of shortstop, there is no bigger hole on Atlanta’s roster than left field. Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna combined were a black hole in the lineup. They alone cannot be trusted to start heading into 2023, and I would be pretty surprised if both of them began the season on the roster. Even amid an abysmal 2022 campaign, Bellinger still accrued 1.2 WAR, which is infinitely more than both Rosario and Ozuna. At the very least, adding him to the mix would be an upgrade.

The decision, as always, will come down to the price tag. Bellinger, despite his struggles, will have no shortage of suitors. Every hitting coach in every organization will be salivating at the opportunity to turn him back into the superstar he once was. He’s still just 27-years-old, after all.

Why I like the Braves chances at potentially signing Bellinger is the fit. There should be mutual interest. The Braves have a need and love one-year, prove-it contracts. On the flip side, those one-year contracts have typically turned out very favorably for the players that have signed with the Braves. They’ve shown they are one of the best organizations at unlocking talent at the major-league level, and that should be exactly what Bellinger desires. Not to mention, he’ll probably want to play for a team that is competitive after spending his career in Los Angeles.

A lot of other factors come into play when it comes to free agent decisions, but on paper, this is a match made in heaven. I would be shocked if the Braves didn’t have some level of interest, and if Bellinger cares about the remainder of his career at all, why wouldn’t he be intrigued by the possibility of proving himself in Atlanta, where so many other players have done the same thing and had success before him.

Photo: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire

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