What’s the harm of adding one more underperforming swing-and-miss slugger to the New York Yankees, anyway?
We kid. We kid because we love. Love and hate.
In 2019, Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger were the gold standard for big-league outfielders. Bellinger, though, might’ve been the most promising of the bunch — promoted as a power threat in 2017, he had completely rounded out his game to take advantage of his violent uppercut swing, posting a .305 batting average and .406 OBP alongside his 47 home runs.
He was the league’s preeminent young slugger. He was a sterling defender, too, with a rocket arm. He was the MVP, with good reason.
Now, the Dodgers have two of 2019’s top three outfielders. They should be set for life, right? Title cinched up?
In 2020, he struggled — as did many people who weren’t accustomed to a shortened, midsummer season without the 2019 rocket balls.
In 2021, after dislocating his shoulder during LA’s postseason run, he has fallen further off the proverbial cliff.
Could the Yankees save the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger with a change of scenery trade?
Numbers alone can’t sum up how chaotic Bellinger’s complete loss of confidence has looked this season — even a Bob Nightengale reverse jinx couldn’t do much more than keep him afloat for a short stretch.
Most Yankees fans have been dissatisfied with Gleyber Torres’ regression, and with good reason. But, given 329 plate appearances through Tuesday’s action, Bellinger has slashed .159/.237/.295. He has struck out 86 times and walked 30. He has smacked nine home runs, falling three short of what he provided during last season’s down year (in just 243 PAs). He has been worth next to nothing, and is only freshly 26. This isn’t supposed to happen.
Through most of this past offseason, we were reckoning with whether the Dodgers would pay Corey Seager, knowing they still had to set aside money for Bellinger. Now … is there any chance the slugger’s next contract remains LA’s problem? In a race for the NL West where 2.5 games separate the Dodgers and Giants, Bellinger has been worth negative 1.5 WAR. He might be sending Los Angeles to the Wild Card Game all by his lonesome.
So, with two years left of team control and an escalating arbitration figure that clocked in at $16.1 million for 2021, what would the Yankees have to do to acquire his left-handed bat and toss him into the center field mix with Aaron Hicks?
Projected Yankees-Dodgers Cody Bellinger trade
Yankees Receive: Cody Bellinger
Dodgers Receive: Everson Pereira, Deivi Garcia
The “prospects only” route is on the table for the Bronx Bombers, and would include a reclamation project of their own in righty Deivi Garcia, who was reportedly tinkered with this offseason in the interest of creating extra velocity. That didn’t happen.
Pereira, New York’s No. 13 prospect and on a rocket ship in 2021’s second half after being excluded from the Joey Gallo trade talks, would be the prize here. On the season, the 20-year-old has posted a 1.107 OPS across three levels, rocking 12 homers in 23 games after being promoted to High-A.
The value of two years of Bellinger cannot be properly assessed right now; if he continues on as a true-talent .159 hitter with no power, this is a massive overpay. However, there’s too much talent there to assume everything’s been lost.
There is a road where the Yankees opt instead to try a double “change of scenery” swap here, including either Gleyber Torres or Gio Urshela in a potential veteran-for-veteran package. For our money, though, that makes less sense. Bellinger, in his current form, is a risk. The Yankees have a thin infield as it is. They’re willing to add former All-Star-level infielders just to spin the roulette wheel on baseball’s biggest disappointment?
For the right pieces, Bellinger makes sense in the Bronx, something we never even thought we’d have the opportunity to explore last fall.