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Reports: Cody Bellinger is returning to Cubs

2 months agoAndy Martinez

MESA, Ariz. — The Cody Bellinger free agency saga is over — and it ended in a fairytale manner for Cubs fans.

Bellinger and the Cubs agreed to a 3-year, $80 million deal, per ESPN. The contract includes opt-outs after years one and two.

The biggest question surrounding the Cubs this offseason was their pursuit of Bellinger and how they would replace his offensive output if he were not to return. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer added multiple pieces to the roster this offseason, highlighted by a trade for Michael Busch with the Dodgers and signing free agents pitcher Shota Imanaga and reliever Hector Neris.

But the biggest prize was always Bellinger.

“I’ve said, dozens of times I think at this point, I have nothing but admiration for him,” Hoyer said at the opening press conference of Spring Training earlier this month, a similar message that he’s echoed numerous times since the Cubs’ season ended.

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The signing gives the Cubs the much-needed lefty middle-of-the-order bat the team was missing. The Cubs were hoping for progression from young players — something not always guaranteed — to make up for the potential loss of Bellinger, but now the margin for error has decreased. Adding Busch and internal improvements from core pieces like Seiya Suzuki or Christopher Morel now looks like an even more intriguing offensive outlook for the Cubs with the return of Bellinger.

He gives new manager Craig Counsell some flexibility, too. The Cubs can opt to start him at center field to begin the year, allow Busch to man first and keep top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong at Triple-A to continue to mature and develop into an everyday player. If the Cubs deem Crow-Armstrong ready at some point in the season, they can use Bellinger at first or DH with Busch playing the other position while Crow-Armstrong patrols center.

Bellinger’s free agency had dragged on long into Spring Training. Much of the process was congested up early by Shohei Ohtani’s courtship, with teams waiting on a decision from him. The clearance that happened ended up trickling slower than many anticipated.

As full squad workouts kicked off earlier in the week, there seemed to be no end in sight, with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts stating, “We’re just waiting, waiting for whenever he and his agent are going to engage. It could be anytime now, or it could be a few weeks. We’ll just see where it goes.”

It ended up being the former.

And Cubs fans will be happy. Bellinger could be in camp as early as this week, allowing him over a month at the Cubs facilities before Opening Day in Texas.

“Everybody loves that guy,” Crow-Armstrong said. “If Cody comes back, that’s great, it gives us a better chance to win.”

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