As the Mets continue the march to 2024, bolstering the starting rotation has been the team’s priority as of late, with the team’s pursuit of Yoshinobu Yamamoto (as well as many other clubs’) taking up a lot of the hot stove focus since the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.

While the team certainly needs to improve the rotation for next season, the lineup shouldn’t be neglected either. One of the easiest spots to improve is by adding another impact bat in a corner outfield spot. In 2023, Mets left and right fielders combined for just 2.9 fWAR, far below what would be needed to lift the team closer to contention.

The current outlook for 2024 isn’t particularly strong either, with FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projecting Mets left fielders to be worth 1.5 WAR (0.7 for DJ Stewart, 0.8 for Jeff McNeil) and right fielders 1.4 WAR (1.0 for Starling Marte, 0.3 for McNeil and 0.1 for Stewart). That is… not great.

If the Mets really want to upgrade in the outfield, bringing in Cody Bellinger could be a ready-made, albeit expensive, way to do it. With Shohei Ohtani off the free agent market, Bellinger is the best bat still available, and he had a fantastic bounce-back season with the Chicago Cubs in 2023 after two down seasons in a row in 2021 and 22.

Of course those down seasons are the reason why Bellinger is available after having to sign a one-year prove-it deal with the Cubs last offseason, during which he hit .307/.356/.525 and put up his best OPS+ (133) since his 2019 MVP season.

He wasn’t just bad, he was Rey Ordonez-level bad offensively, hitting just .193/.256/.355 in 239 games between 21 and 22. The risk a team would be taking with signing him is that 2023 was just a mirage and he reverts back to that level. In reality though, he is probably closer to his 2023 performance than before.

That said, there are significant red flags with Bellinger, notably his hard-hit rate being in the lower 10th percentile in MLB. That is reason to be concerned about his power output being sustainable, but he adjusted his two-strike approach in 2023, and as a result his two-strike hitting was some of the best in baseball last year. Esteban Rivera at FanGraphs dove into this earlier this month, and was cautious in his assessment, but offered some optimism that while the power will be a question mark, it is a good sign for his contact hitting being sustainable.

Jon Heyman reported in the NY Post this morning that Bellinger and Agent Scott Boras are seeking $200 million, and linked the Blue Jays and Cubs to him. In fact, the Mets have not been seriously linked to Bellinger at all this offseason, interesting considering the team’s need to add an outfield bat (and a lefty bat with some pop at that).

Frankly it seems like $200 million is probably too big a number for a player with as many questions and inconsistencies as Bellinger, but honesty who knows? With Ohtani’s $700 million deal with the Dodgers, maybe the free agent market has been so skewed that within a year or two it won’t seem so outlandish. And especially not if he plays up to the better years of his career and not his 21 and 22 seasons.

If there is a team and owner that is in a better position to take a risk like that, it is the Mets and Steve Cohen. The upside is you get a player who, when at his best, is an MVP-level performer capable of playing all three outfield spots and first base entering his age 28 season.

The downside is that even if he reverts back to being full 2022 Bellinger, his 1.8 fWAR that year is still better than what any current Mets corner outfielder is projected for (Depth Charts projects Bellinger for 2.4 fWAR in 2024). Obviously that is still an upgrade over what the Mets currently have, it is just a question of being willing to meet his asking price.

There may be the ability to wait out the market and see if the asking price drops, but with options limited after the Ohtani signing and the Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo trades, teams like the Blue Jays are likely to start getting desperate and waiting could have the Mets miss out on signing him. If the Mets are serious about trying to improve next year, at least pursuing Bellinger is something that should be done.

11 comments on “Cody Bellinger could be a strong fit for the Mets

  • BoomBoom

    I like the move as insurance against not-signing Alonso to an extension. In fact, I think that’s the equation – Bellinger or Alonso for 8 yrs / 200 million. If they were to sign Bellinger, I think Alonso is gone in a trade for pitching which maybe is the right thing to do anyway. Vientos can share time at 1b with Bellinger and DH other games. Cody can solve at least one of the OF issues. Better defender than Alonso and will help next to Nimmo as well. I’m talking myself into this.

  • Metsense

    Bellinger gives me trepidation because of those two years. If he would take 8/$200m then would be a bargain.(or in Cohenese, an opportunity) He is only 28 yoa, in his prime, athletic and averages 4.1 bWAR. Last year he had a 4.4 bWAR.
    BoomBoom ^ has a good idea concerning the 29 yoa Alonso if it is a choice between the two of them. I would rather Bellinger at 8/$200m than Alonso.

  • Mike W

    Joe, I just don’t see it Yes, he had a nice year in 2023 with a 4.4 WAR. But, in 2021 and 2022, he hit a buck 60 and .210.

    I see the Mets possibly signing a Justin Turner for one or two years, while we have Acuna, Jett Williams and Ryan Clifford waiting in the wings.

    The money for Bellinger could go to a pitching stud next year like Fried.

    But it is an interesting scenario to replace Alonso with Bellinger.

  • Bob P

    I wouldn’t give Bellinger an 8 year deal. He had a good year last year (better then Alonso but with less power) but those 2 prior years really scare me. I’d be uncomfortable with anything more than 2 or 3 for him. Someone will give him a long term deal (although I doubt 8/$200), but I wouldn’t. If it’s a choice between the 2, I go with Pete.

    • James OBrien

      Brian, in a recent article, made it clear what happens to power hitters when they get past 30. Historically, they decline and often dramatically. Signing Alonso to an 8-year deal is just asking for frustration on the field and clogging the budget. Star players were certainly underpaid for the first years of their careers, so it seems right to give someone like Alonso a much higher salary for fewer years, while he can still earn it.

  • T.J.

    No thank you, not at the numbers kicking around. I’d give Pete 8/$200 million over Bellinger any time.

  • NYM6986

    It’s hard when you convince yourself that last year was the floor for Bellinger and that he is on his way back up. But who knows. Would be a good addition especially with not knowing how Marte will play even if he’s healthy. 5 for $100 million. Otherwise we can struggle for another year until one of kids are ready. Not sure why people don’t want Alonso to sign a big extension. He’s the big bat in the lineup, and I can’t think of anyone who would replace all the HR. He should’ve been re-signed two years ago. Waiting for Stearns to show us the money.

  • Footballhead

    A big no for Bellinger being a Met for that 8/$200m. I’m sure Alonso would get more, but I would trade Alonso at the deadline this year; get some pitching, and put Vientos at 1B.

    Even if the Mets do get Yamamoto, I think 2024 will be a transition year. I see the youngsters like Baty and Vientos (and Alvarez), either making it or crashing on the rocks. Either way, we’ll know for sure before the next wave of minor leaguers arrive.

    Save the money this year, and import what you’ll need for a true shot at the W.S for 2025. With the money coming off the books after this year, I think that’s the way Stearns and Cohen will go.

  • James Lanzaro

    I liked bellinger. Just not for the Mets. I think hed fit the yankees more. I want to give mark Vientos a chance. I hated mark earlier in his carrer with Mets but i watched how he finally statred blasting homers to right center. I think hes arrived

  • James lanzaro

    Please sign Justin Turner the Met killer and ex Met. A 2 year contract at a fair amount till everyone arrives like Mark Vientos They have some minor league talent on the arrival in acuna clifford

  • David Groveman

    In my mind the Mets need to look at 2024 as either a “Go For It” year or a “Deep Breath” year. Questions like Cody Bellinger are not priorities until the Mets find out about Yamamoto. I realize it’s crazy to suggest that the Mets spending on a top free agent pitcher would open the door to more spending but that is exactly how it needs to be.

    If you get Yamamoto, your rotation is one pitcher away from being among the better staffs in baseball a year after debacles with former Aces. You do not sign Yamamoto and tell him “We’re going to compete in 2025.” If the Mets sign him, they are going to have another offseason of Steve Cohen spending. Cody Bellinger being added as a middle of the order hitter and Justin Turner as a DH/Brett Baty insurance policy become definite option.

    If you don’t get Yamamoto and change your focus to 2025, maybe signing Brandon Woodruff to headline that future rotation, you don’t look at spending the money on Cody Bellinger this year. You look at younger players who will accept multiple years with their eye on competing when the bad money comes off the books. If the Mets are “Taking a Breath” in 2024 they should not sign anyone with a qualifying offer despite their poor draft position.

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