Bellinger finally had the bounce-back season he so desparately needed this year in Chicago, and will enter the free agent market as one of the top bats available. The Yankees were rumored to be in on Bellinger at the trade deadline, and he, like Soto, has characteristics that make him a natural fit in the Bronx.
Pros: These are going to be very similar to Soto's pros, but with a caveat. In 2023, Yankees center fielders had a combined 80 wRC+, 20% below the league average and worse than all but five other teams. Cody Bellinger had a 134 wRC+ last season, as well as 4 Outs Above Average in center field.
Ultimately, he can provide Harrison Bader-esque defense in center while being a much better bat. What Bellinger also offers is versatility. If the Yankees were to sign him, he would likely be their regular center fielder in 2024 with Jasson Dominguez on the mend from Tommy John surgery. but he has the ability to play all three outfield positions as well as first base, which will aid the Yankees in the event of an inevitable injury, or if they decide to move on from an aging Anthony Rizzo in the next couple of seasons.
Cons: It's still very possible that Bellinger turns back into a pumpkin in the future. This is not to say his 2023 season was the product of some absurd luck (he did have some luck, but even if he were to regress to his .331 xwOBA, he'd still be a solid hitter), but rather that it's somewhat unclear how he was able to improve.
Somehow, his results got better despite lower barrel and hard-hit percentages, which goes against baseball trends. This happens sometimes, but in most of these cases the batter is either pulling the ball more, hitting the ball in the air more, or has some other tangible measurement to explain their success.
In Bellinger's case, there really isn't anything. He saw a slight increase in line drives from 22.2% in 2022 to 26.4% in 2023, but that came at the expense of his fly ball rate rather than his ground ball rate. He pulled the ball slightly more, but not enough to explain that big of an increase in production.
If we move on to his plate discipline stats, it's not like he developed some ultra-patient approach at the plate, either. He swung at the exact same rate as he did in 2022, chased around the same rate, and swung at fewer pitches in the zone. His whiffs were down and his zone contact rate was up, but still not too far from league average.
Additionally, the weakness of this year's free agent class will likely raise Bellinger's market value, meaning that whoever gets him will likely over pay.