Cody Bellinger, Cubs reportedly agree to 1-year, $17.5M deal

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Former National League MVP Cody Bellinger and the Chicago Cubs agreed to a one-year, $17.5 million contract, a person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement was subject to a successful physical.

Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 18 after the 27-year-old outfielder hit .210 with 19 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .654 OPS in 144 games.

“Got a track record of a lot of success and dynamic defense,” Cubs manager David Ross said at the winter meetings in San Diego. “I remember when he first got in the league first base, smooth hands, dynamic center fielder, great outfielder. Hadn’t had the success he had early on, but definitely a lot of potential for a great player.”

Bellinger figures to play center for the Cubs. He had a $17 million contract this season and likely would have received a slight raise in arbitration.

“Playing through an injury, trying to come back and learning how to balance, wanting to be out on the field and actually getting fully healthy, I think is what a lot of players in my experience deal with and try to rush back and maybe not getting all the way there,” Ross said.

“Getting into a space where you’ve got a leg issue, you’ve got a shoulder issue, and you get into some bad habits,” Ross said. “Bad habits create mistakes or make it tougher to hit, and then you get into this rabbit hole of chasing the feeling that you used to have.”

Bellinger was limited to 95 games during the 2021 regular season when he was on the injured list three times and batted .165. He hit .353 in 12 games in that postseason and had the go-ahead RBI single in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the rival San Francisco Giants. Bellinger also had a tying, three-run homer against Atlanta in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.

In 2020, Bellinger hit .239 with 12 home runs in 56 games during the pandemic-shortened season. He homered three times in the NLCS, and the Dodgers beat the Braves to reach the World Series. They went on to defeat Tampa Bay in six games to win the franchise’s first title since 1988.

Bellinger has battled injuries since his MVP season, including having surgery on his right shoulder in November 2020.

Before his precipitous drop-off, Bellinger was the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year and 2018 NLCS MVP. He made two All-Star teams, and won a Gold Glove in 2019.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”