The Major League Baseball offseason has reached one of its slowest points, which usually means that the Cleveland Guardians would be doing some of their bargain bin shopping before Spring Training gets into full swing. While they have brought in one familiar face (Carlos Carrasco) using this method, there is one bigger free agent still navigating the waters of free agency that would be a massive boost to their lineup. The unfortunate part is that this player, even though it is widely acknowledged will have to take some version of a lower dollar figure for this season, is still going to be outside of the price range that the Guardians prefer to operate in. That player is Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger is coming off a bounce-back year with the Chicago Cubs. The 28-year-old slashed .307/.356/.525 with 29 doubles, 26 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and 97 runs driven in, leading to a weighted runs created plus of 134. This is exactly the type of production the Guardians' outfield could use right now to bolster their offensive production. Cleveland's group, outside of Steven Kwan, has been a lackluster group for much longer than anyone would prefer. Adding someone into the mix that would bump Myles Straw from regular playing time and into the reserve/defensive replacement/pinch-running role he should be in would be a massive improvement. This seems like a perfect match, right? Well, that does not happen to be the case as things stand currently.
The issue is the risk-averse nature that the Guardians operate in. This is an organization that is not necessarily all that comfortable in making big splash moves in free agency and largely has shied away from participating in that type of spending. Another aspect that is not helping is that the Guardians stepped out of their comfort zone last offseason by signing Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, two moves which can best be classified as being of the whiff variety. The fact that these acquisitions failed to work out in the manner that they had hoped is going to have an impact on who and how they approach potential free agent signings for the foreseeable future.
There is one thing that must be mentioned when it comes to Bellinger that justifies Cleveland not aggressively pursuing him. As impressive as he was in 2023, Bellinger was a shell of himself from 2020-2022. Bellinger slashed just .203/272/.376 while striking out 286 times in 295 games immediately following his MVP campaign in 2019, and there was some speculation that his swing was broken beyond repair. While Bellinger was able to rebound in Chicago last season, having some level of concern about that being a one-year surge rather than who he is moving forward is something that should at least be taken into consideration. This possibility, combined with Cleveland not willing to break the bank, makes this potential match one that will only live in the world of hypotheticals rather than reality.