Cody Bellinger rejects mutual option with Cubs, officially heading to free agency
Cody Bellinger officially rejected his side of his mutual option for 2024 and became a free agent, the Cubs said Friday night.
Additionally, the team rejected its mutual option on reliever Brad Boxberger, meaning Boxberger hits the open market, too. The two moves bring the Cubs’ 40-man roster to 35.
For Bellinger, the move was expected and a formality — his successful 2023 campaign meant he was always likely to decline his option and hit the open market to find a long-term contract. And that means his time in Chicago might not be over, either. The Cubs have been open about their desire to want to bring him back.
“I think you’re always trying to sell free agents on what it’s like to play in Chicago,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at his end-of-season press conference. “There’s nothing better than having a guy experience for a year and openly say he loves it and I think that’s something that gives us a shot. We don’t have to recruit him very hard.
“I think he knows what this place is all about and I know he loved it.”
The next step for the Cubs is to extend Bellinger a qualifying offer — the deadline to do so is November 6 — which he is likely to reject, too. The qualifying offer is a one-year deal at $20.325 million deal. If Bellinger signs elsewhere after the Cubs extend him the qualifying offer, they will receive draft pick compensation.
Bellinger was a key piece to the Cubs’ offense this year — his wRC+ (134), OPS (.881), home runs (26) and RBI (97) were all the highest he’s had since his MVP year in 2019.
“We’d love to bring him back,” Hoyer said. “But in a world where that’s somewhat uncertain, we do have to figure out a way to replace that offensively.”
Boxberger signed last offseason and was expected to be a key piece to the Cubs’ bullpen, but injuries limited his contributions. He had a 4.95 ERA in 20 innings across 22 games for the Cubs.