Cody Bellinger spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers but his career in with the franchise was in essence split into two parts, which led to his exit during free agency this past winter.
Originally selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 Draft, Bellinger developed elite power and pushed his way into top prospect status before making his MLB debut during the 2017 season.
He went on to win National League Rookie of the Year that season, and he was later named to two All-Star Games, in addition to taking home the MVP Award in 2019, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger during his career with the Dodgers. Bellinger became the first Dodgers player to win all three of those awards in a single season.
Over his first three years in L.A., Bellinger established himself as one of the game’s best players, hitting .278/.368/.559 with 111 home runs, a 140 wRC+ and 15.2 WAR in 450 games.
But during the Dodgers’ World Series run during the shortened 2020 season, Bellinger dislocated his shoulder on a celebration, and his career started to go down from there.
From the 2021-22 seasons, Bellinger was among the league’s worst hitters, batting .193/.256/.355 with 29 home runs, a 69 wRC+ and 0.8 WAR over 239 games. That led to the Dodgers non-tendering him during the 2022 offseason and Bellinger signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs.
But with the Cubs playing at Dodger Stadium this weekend, Bellinger remembered his Dodgers career in a positive light.
“A lot of good memories, man,” Bellinger said of returning to Chavez Ravine. “Except I came in from the other side. But it’s good to be back. It’s a beautiful day and you know, a lot, a lot of good memories here.
“Excited to go see the guys after this and just kind of mess around. I’ve talked to a few of them, but I haven’t seen them in a while.”
Despite Bellinger now playing for a new team, he continued to keep in contact with former teammates “quite a bit.”
“It’s obviously easier with social media and all our phones and everything nowadays,” he added. “I’m excited to go see them up close and personal though, and just kind of mess around and talk smack a little bit.”
The Dodgers decision to non-tender Bellinger was surprising to some, including his agent Scott Boras, but ultimately, the writing was on the wall with a needed change of scenery, along with the Dodgers already having a replacement in James Outman
Although moving on after six years can be difficult for any person, Bellinger turned the page and considered the process over.
“I think when I knew I wasn’t coming back here, it hit me just how many amazing memories that I had,” Bellinger said. “My younger self would be really proud of me. A lot of good memories here at this field and the fans showed me nothing but love for six, seven years.”
Bellinger is now looking to prove to the Cubs, and the Dodgers, he can get back to MVP form in the hopes of earning a new contract. His past few seasons have been riddled with injuries, but he is now feeling like himself again.
“I just feel really good, man. I really do,” Bellinger said. “Physically, mentally, I’m in a pretty good spot. And like I said, this team’s really fun. Got a really solid group of guys with a great coaching staff. I have nothing but positive things to say. It’s just been a really good start to the year.”
Bellinger entered the first game against his former club hitting .238/.298/.405 with two home runs and an 86 wRC+ in 11 games. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored, double and walk in the Cubs’ 8-2 win.
Max Muncy: Dodgers miss Cody Bellinger
Max Muncy was a lockermate with Bellinger in the Dodgers clubhouse and mentioned the two built “a lot of great memories” together.
“He was a great teammate, a great player,” Muncy said. “I know he struggled at the end but he always kept the same attitude every day. Special player and a special guy. We miss him over here, but it’ll be good to see him on the other side.”
Muncy also discussed Bellinger’s presence in the clubhouse, saying “he always kept it light.”
“I think that’s something he was great at,” Muncy added. “You need that in a clubhouse, and he definitely brought that.”
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