Dodgers look to craft new outfield after Belli's exit
Club has internal options but will also pursue free agents or trade targets
SAN DIEGO -- A day after Trea Turner reportedly signed an 11-year deal with the Phillies, the Dodgers lost another key piece of the roster on Tuesday as Cody Bellinger is headed to the Cubs on a one-year deal, a source told MLB.com.
“I’m excited for Cody. He was very good for me. He was a very good Dodger,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “We’ve got a lot of talent coming on the position player side, on the pitching side. Things are going to look a little different, but a lot of it still is going to be the same.”
For a few seasons, it appeared Bellinger was ready to become the next great Dodgers outfielder. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2017 and followed that up by winning NL MVP in 2019.
But after two consecutive subpar seasons at the plate, the Dodgers decided to non-tender Bellinger as he entered his last arbitration-eligible season. Los Angeles ultimately decided they couldn’t absorb the $18 million pricetag for a player who had become a defensive specialist at a premier position in center field.
Both sides, however, continued to engage in talks over the last few weeks, but a reunion was always unlikely. That became evident over time given Bellinger’s healthy market. His agent, Scott Boras, said Tuesday that 11 or 12 teams were in on the former MVP. Some clubs offered multi-year deals, per Boras.
“He’s feeling much different than he did at the end of last season,” Boras said.
With Bellinger headed to Chicago, where do things stand with the Dodgers in the outfield?
For starters, they will add another outfielder to replace the void left behind by Bellinger. Ideally, it’s a player who can handle the majority of playing time in center field. Whether the Dodgers do that via trade or free agency remains to be seen, but they’ll have some options.
On the free-agent market, a name to keep an eye on is Kevin Kiermaier, who is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Kiermaier is coming off season-ending hip surgery, but has recovered well and will be ready for Spring Training, according to a source. Kiermaier is a career .248 hitter, but could give the Dodgers the elite outfielder they’re looking for at a cheaper price.
There’s also familiarity there as president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was the executive who drafted Kiermaier in 2010 during his tenure in Tampa Bay.
“There’s some interesting players in the market that we’re continuing to have conversations about,” Friedman said. “From our standpoint, we would like to augment our group.”
The trade market, as always, is a little bit trickier to predict. A lot of things have to align in order for the Dodgers to make a trade for a specific target, but one player who could become available over the next few months is Pirates’ outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who has requested a trade from Pittsburgh, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
A potential deal for Reynolds would cost the Dodgers a significant chunk of the farm system, something they’re usually reluctant to do unless it makes sense. No real discussions have come up between the teams.
Internally, the Dodgers also have options. Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor both have experience at the position, though both are a significant defensive downgrade from what Bellinger provided. Mookie Betts could also slide over from time to time, but that takes him out of his best position in right field.
No. 13 prospect James Outman will also get a look and he’s a name to watch next season. Outman made a great first impression, homering on his first at-bat and starting his Major League career on a tear. He was sent down to make room for Joey Gallo, but there will be plenty of opportunities for Outman in 2023.
“He had a really good season,” Friedman said of Outman. “He got to experience a little bit of the Major Leagues, went back down and took what he had learned and did really well. Now whether that’s Opening Day or at some point over the course of the '23 season, I would imagine he will get opportunities.”