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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.