What Cody Bellinger can bring to the Cubs roster
SAN DIEGO — Carter Hawkins and the Cubs wanted balance with their offense.
The reported signing of Cody Bellinger tips the scales that way.
“We’re certainly always looking for left-handed hitting,” the Cubs general manager said Tuesday night.
The Cubs are right-handed heavy offensively, but Bellinger’s addition helps.
“Being able to have that versatility is nice,” manager David Ross said. “I don’t think it’s a must but having a couple guys in there that can break that up – [Ian Happ] being a switch-hitter obviously. Having another left-handed bat in the lineup as things shake out right now would be nice.”
Bellinger’s acquisition brings the Cubs potential star power — the 27-year-old is a former MVP and Rookie of the Year. But more importantly, it gives Ross the ability to be creative.
His defense prowess in center field is well documented, but the lefty can also play first base – a position the Cubs are also trying to improve.
“We would definitely think about multiple positions and where the best fit would be,” Hawkins said.
Make no mistake, though, that fit is in center. That’s because his defensive acumen will elevate the game of Happ in left, who already won a Gold Glove, and Seiya Suzuki in right, who should only continue to improve with more and more time in the States.
“When you have a leader in center field that can really track things down, it can impact the entire outfield. It can make the outfield smaller for your left fielder and make the outfield smaller for your right fielder,” Hawkins said.
That position was a spot the Cubs felt they could more easily improve than some of the other needs on the roster. Bellinger provides an immediate boon to the defense in center, something the Cubs struggled with in 2022. Bellinger was tied for 6th among all center fielders with 7 outs above average. The Cubs, meanwhile, were 29th in outs above average from the centerfield position at -7 OAA.
Add the ability for a bounce back offensively and the union of Bellinger and the Cubs makes a lot of sense. Especially on a low-risk 1-year deal.
“You can add anywhere, but you try to figure out where’s the replacement level potentially the lowest and center field’s not something that we have really had a bunch of stability in last year,” Hawkins said. “So that’s definitely a spot that we’re looking at and have been looking at this offseason.”
It’s the first step in improving a middle of the field “spine” defensively — both Hawkins and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer have stated the need to be strong up the middle — center field, second base and shortstop and catcher.
The Cubs have two of those positions locked down now once the Bellinger deal becomes official with him and Nico Hoerner. They’ll continue to be active in the star-studded shortstop market and a catcher that can stabilize their defense.
“Being strong up the middle is really important, I think that’s something that we’re talking about a lot,” Hoyer said.