ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Arizona-native Cody Bellinger is returning to the Cubs on an $80 million, 3-year contract

Feb 25, 2024, 11:06 AM

Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts following a single during the ninth inning of a game ...

Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts following a single during the ninth inning of a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field on September 07, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 6-2. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Cody Bellinger is going back to the Chicago Cubs, agreeing to an $80 million, three-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The slugger can opt out of the deal after each of the first two seasons, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Sunday because the agreement was pending a physical. Bellinger is set to make $30 million this year, and then $30 million in 2025 if he stays with Chicago and $20 million in 2026 if he doesn’t opt out of the contract.

Bellinger was among five significant free agents represented by Scott Boras who went into spring training without agreements. Pitchers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, third baseman Matt Chapman and designated hitter J.D. Martinez remain on the market.

It was a much different experience than last offseason, when Bellinger finalized a $17.5 million, one-year deal with the Cubs in December 2022. He then declined his end of a $25 million mutual option for 2024, and also rejected a $20,325,000 qualifying offer from Chicago after a resurgent performance.

Healthy again after years of injuries, Bellinger regained the form that made him one of baseball’s biggest stars at the beginning of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit a career-best .307 with 26 homers, 97 RBIs and 20 steals in 130 games in 2023.

The 28-year-old Bellinger helped power the Cubs into playoff contention before the team faded in September. He had 48 RBIs in one 45-game stretch from Aug. 1 to Sept. 19.

Bellinger also gave Chicago a lift with his defensive versatility. He won a Gold Glove in 2019 for his work in center, and he also plays a solid first base. He likely will be in center on opening day this year, giving top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong more time to develop.

Bellinger’s rejuvenation was greeted with some skepticism from the analytics crowd. He ranked in the 22nd percentile among big leaguers in average exit velocity and in the 10th percentile in hard-hit rate in 2023 — he was in the 83rd and 86th percentiles, respectively, when he won NL MVP in 2019.

Bellinger was selected by Los Angeles in the fourth round of the 2013 amateur draft. His father, Clay, was a utilityman who appeared in 183 big league games, mostly with the New York Yankees.

Cody Bellinger broke into the majors in 2017, hitting 39 homers for the Dodgers and winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. He was the NL MVP in 2019, batting .305 with a career-best 47 homers and 115 RBIs in 156 games.

The Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, and Bellinger played a key role in their October success. He hit four homers and drove in 13 runs in 18 postseason games as Los Angeles won it all for the first time since 1988.

After that stellar season in 2019, injuries became an issue. Bellinger had surgery on his right shoulder in November 2020. He hit a career-low .165 in 95 games in 2021.

Bellinger was let go by the Dodgers in November 2022 after he hit .210 with 19 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .654 OPS in 144 games in his final season with the team.

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