Quick Notes on Potential Bellinger Contract Structure, Bullpen Additions, Saving Money on Barnhart

None of these topics felt like they could stand on their own, but I was interested enough in each that it made sense to do a package deal. Sounds kind of like how Jed Hoyer is approaching Scott Boras when it comes to his free agents. And with that, we turn to Cody Bellinger.

Arizona Phil laid out some thoughts at The Cub Reporter that included the idea of Bellinger having to potentially target a longer deal with lower AAV that features an opt-out after the first year. This is a result of an apparent lack of interest in his going rate, which is a function of the risk associated with his poor batted-ball results and production in the three seasons before joining the Cubs.

There’s merit to the idea of getting long-term security while also trying to parlay another good season into a third straight shot at free agency. Bellinger benefits from serious upside because he could hit the open market again sans stigma or qualifying offer. That all makes sense on paper, but I disagree with the idea that Bellinger can get several guaranteed years and an early opt-out.

Carlos Correa got three years with the Twins the first time around, then opted out and went through a wild circus that saw him agree to ill-fated deals with the Giants and Mets before returning to Minnesota. We could see something similar with Bellinger, just without the public humiliation. It’s been clear for a while that he and the Cubs have mutual interest, so a reunion could still happen once his asking price falls further.

Jed Hoyer still has plenty of work to do on the bullpen, though what initially seemed like a task centered around spending a little bigger may now be back to the same old strategy. Phil noted that the Cubs already have three or four relievers who can’t be optioned: Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr., and Drew Smyly. That makes the addition of other big-league arms somewhat troublesome because it removes flexibility.

Though I don’t like the concept of simply “casting a wide” and hoping for the best, Hoyer did talk about having a lot of lines in the water. With all the minor-league moves the Cubs have made, it’s easy to believe they may once again roll with a cobbled-together bullpen. We could also see them leaning more heavily on young pitchers by developing eventual starters via the bullpen initially.

That would certainly save some money, not that Hoyer should be concerned with frugality right now. But if it’s savings they desire, the Diamondbacks could help out by shaving the league minimum off of the $3.25 million owed to Tucker Barnhart for 2024. The catcher signed a minor-league deal with the Snakes, who would owe him a prorated portion of the minimum for any time he spends on the active roster.

It’s pretty inconsequential in the end and should not factor at all in Hoyer’s plans, just something of note when getting into the granular stuff. That’s it for now, still hoping to find something a little more salient to write about.

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