Would Yankees have preferred Cody Bellinger to Alex Verdugo if they'd known price?

Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages
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Cody Bellinger turned the Boras Four into a trio over the weekend -- either that, or they welcomed JD Martinez into their misery -- when he officially signed with the Chicago Cubs.

A deal had been expected for months. For those who'd already questioned Boras' dragged-out process, the finality produced nothing but eye rolls.

The terms of the contract were a genuine shocker, though. In essence, Bellinger only has one guaranteed year in Chicago at $30 million ahead of him. He can opt out after either 2024 or 2025, and the final season of his "three-year deal," 2026, would theoretically be $10 million cheaper for Chicago if he happened to crater and reach it.

Did Bellinger, at a cheaper-than-expected (in terms of length) but exactly-as-expected (in terms of cash) contract, make sense for the Yankees, even with his shaky metrics, swing-and-miss history, and significant backslide potential? Not really, but you won't be stunned to learn that Monday's New York hot takes shows led with the non-troversy!

Yankees 2024 outfield: Cody Bellinger or Alex Verdugo?

The Yankees, instead, committed to Alex Verdugo months ago, surrendering three pitching prospects to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for the fiery doubles machine. While it seemed like Bellinger wished they had called him instead, the Yankees were never legitimately connected to his market.

Should they have been, with 20/20 hindsight? Now, ready yourself for an overwhelming wave of caveats. There's no way to know Boras would've placed the same discount Bellinger deal on the table for the Yankees, and agitating for it might've bothered the league's preeminent super agent unnecessarily, one year before they'll be forced to engage with him on Juan Soto. Boras doesn't typically do short-term deals; this smacks of Bellinger begging for a return to the Cubbies, Boras finally caving, and still earning his client $30 million next year without Chicago being forced to tie themselves down long-term.

Also, while signing Bellinger didn't require a long-term commitment, he would've created the same tax disaster as Blake Snell; his $30 million would've been taxed at 110% for 2024. Verdugo's final year of arbitration? Not quite that hefty.

And, on top of everything, think logically. If the Yankees had waited until Feb. 25 to address their left field hole in any capacity, locking themselves into a staring contest with Bellinger and likely having to out-bid the Cubs (in terms of years) to woo him away from "home"? We would've crushed them for it.

Verdugo might have both character concerns and an Alex Cora-related squabble to settle, but the second thing might be a benefit to the Yankees, not a hindrance. Regardless, the Yankees made their beds months ago with a player who would've had the third-ranked OPS on the 2023 Yankees in a down year. They're sleeping just fine at night knowing Bellinger's staying put in Chicago.

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