CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 21: Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs removes his pads after drawing a walk against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on September 21, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Cody Bellinger's Free Agent Market Has Clear Frontrunners

Nothing huge has happened just yet, but MLB's Hot Stove is starting to simmer, most notably with the exciting slugger Cody Bellinger.

It's simmering so much, in fact, that the rumor mill is connecting some of the top available players with certain teams. One free agent getting this treatment is outfielder Cody Bellinger.

What kind of payday did the 2019 NL MVP Award winner line himself up for with a bounce-back campaign in 2023? After struggling mightily with the Los Angeles Dodgers between 2020 and 2022, Bellinger won a Silver Slugger Award this past year with the Chicago Cubs. He slashed .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, 95 runs scored, and 20 steals in 556 plate appearances.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Bellinger is the second-best free agent this winter. They're also predicting the Scott Boras client will reel in a 12-year, $264 million contract. Even if he ultimately signs for less, taking the one-year "prove-it" deal to rebuild his own value in the Windy City will pay off handsomely within the coming weeks.

As one can imagine, there are only a handful of MLB teams willing and able to commit that kind of money to a player. There are more than three organizations with the means to make it happen. However, Jon Heyman of the New York Post is convinced the top three teams vying for the 28-year-old's services include the Cubs, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants:

All of these potential destinations make sense. Chicago currently has a void in center field because Bellinger is on the open market. Fresh off handing manager Craig Counsell a $40 million deal, their offseason spending is far from done.

The Yankees' offense struggled quite a bit in 2023, especially when Aaron Judge wasn't in the lineup. With the iconic short porch in right field, it's a prime opportunity for a left-handed hitter with power to feast in the Bronx. New York being interested in Belli isn't anything new, either. Before Chicago decided to keep him, the Yankees were constantly connected to Bellinger leading up to last summer's trade deadline.

As for the Giants, they've been trying to find someone to be the face of their franchise and a long-term offensive anchor within the lineup for a while now. San Francisco tried reeling in Judge and Carlos Correa last winter in two separate pursuits, but neither worked out. Bellinger would fit nicely into a Giants lineup that could certainly use a little more firepower.

Which one of these teams has the upper hand? When will the always-interesting mystery team make its appearance? As we creep closer to MLB's Winter Meetings in a couple of weeks, it's only bound to get more intriguing.

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