Cubs' Cody Bellinger 'excited' despite push for long-term deal

MESA, Ariz. -- At some point in a long offseason, Cody Bellinger and his agent, Scott Boras, understood they might have to pivot from their desire for a long-term contract and instead sign something with more flexibility.

With that in mind, the former MVP inked a three-year, $80 million deal to return to the Chicago Cubs with the opportunity to opt out and become a free agent again after each of the first two seasons.

Flanked by Boras and Cubs president Jed Hoyer during a Wednesday news conference to announce his return, Bellinger, 28, was asked how closely the offseason played out compared with what he expected. He deferred the question to Boras, turning his head to his agent for a response.

"There are variables," Boras said. "We have some irregularity going on in this current market. We have close to 11 teams that are spending less money than they did a year go ... in light of the fact we have record revenues in baseball."

But even Boras seemed to indicate he knew there would be question marks from teams about Bellinger regardless of any spending trends.

Before producing an .881 OPS in 2023, Bellinger had two down years in 2021 and 2022 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .165 and .210, respectively. Much of that poor production could be attributed to a shoulder and foot injury, according to Boras. But teams either weren't buying the injury factor or simply chose not to spend the money.

Bellinger was again asked if he thought a long-term deal would be there for him when the offseason began.

"There's definitely that thought that goes into it," he said. "Ultimately, that's the goal. At the end of the day, I'm super excited how it all worked out. Yes, obviously [long term], but with this [I'm] excited with it all and happy to get going."

Hoyer indicated he and Boras began talked about another contract with Bellinger last July, but the team opted to sit out discussions on that longer-term deal. When Bellinger was ready for something different, the sides came together.

"With any negotiation, there is a misperception that we just fire offers back and forth to each other," Hoyer said. "We did a lot of talking about what each side wanted. Over the last five to seven days, we kind of targeted a deal that made sense for both sides."

Boras added: "I have to prepare Cody that this is what they're going to do," regarding teams' lack of long-term offers. "The likelihood of you getting what players with your skill set normally get is probably not going to be there. So you have to have another optimal plan. It includes a shorter term with flex.

"Free agency is like a turkey and a thermometer. You have to go in, see what the temperature is, evaluate it."

Their evaluation determined there were no long-term offers coming in. Instead of signing something in the middle, Bellinger and Boras chose the shorter route and another crack or two at free agency.

Boras was then asked if he had any more news conferences planned, considering he still has multiple players available in the free agent market, including pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell, along with third baseman Matt Chapman. He turned to Hoyer for that answer but got only a laugh.

"I never put a final nail in that," Hoyer said, referring to the Cubs' offseason. "Things come up all the time."

Boras indicated Montgomery has been working out at facilities in Florida and that Snell has been in California. He said both would be ready for the regular season no matter when they sign.

"We are able to duplicate what they do in spring training," Boras said.

Meanwhile, Bellinger's signing brushes the Cubs' payroll up against the first competitive balance tax threshold of $237 million. Any additional signings would likely put them over that figure. As Hoyer indicated, they could be done after re-adding a valuable left-handed bat who can play Gold Glove-caliber defense in center and at first base.

"I didn't hide the fact, internally, that I did want to come back here," Bellinger said. "I love Wrigley Field. I love the fans. When it was coming towards the end, this was definitely something that I wanted. And both sides agreed. Happy it worked out the way it did."