Cody Bellinger joins Cubs free agent roster at submission deadline

The Cubs’ free agent shopping list just grew by at least one big name and maybe a few other schemers with Friday night’s no-bid deadline.

The Dodgers, as expected, untendered 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger, who has seriously underperformed the past two years, in part due to injury. And the Cubs should explore his market to help fill their center field and first base needs, sources say.

Another center fielder also became a free agent on Friday night when the White Sox failed to introduce Adam Engel, a positive defender in the position until 2022.

Team president Jed Hoyer said he expects the “lion’s share” of center field batsmen next year will be taken by someone he adds to the roster this winter – with an extreme scarcity of bona fide options among free agents.

Mets free agent Brandon Nimmo sits at the top of that market and likely commands too high a price for the Cubs’ appetite, and that’s a significant downside for the next center back after that.

Bellinger, a left-handed slugger with 39 and 47 homers in two of his first three seasons, is just 27 and could be a classic change-of-scene and rebound type assuming his troubles with his troublesome right shoulder are behind him.

He dislocated his surgically repaired shoulder celebrating a home run during the 2020 National League Championship Series and hasn’t performed well since.

He won $17 million this year and is expected to win $18 million through arbitration next year.

The two-time All-Star could generate a lot of interest on a one-year contract, “pillow” to rebuild his value next winter, and even the Dodgers would be interested in talking to him now that his salary is unwound from the procedure. ‘arbitration.

“He can play first base and center field at Gold Glove,” Bellinger’s agent Scott Boras said. “It’s really about getting his strength back so he can repeat his level of skill.”

Cubs sources say the team will also consider free agent Kevin Kiermaier, whose 2023 option was turned down by the Rays three months after the three-time Golden Glove winner underwent hip surgery .

Engel, who turns 31 next year, is another possible low-cost addition to the center field mix, but without the bat to suggest regular playing time.

Two other players who became free agents when not introduced Friday could also fit the Cubs’ plans as possible low-risk, high-potential signings, depending on how hot their markets are: the outfielder Mets/first baseman Dom Smith and former All-Star Cardinals closer Alex Reyes.

Smith, 27, is a left-handed corner fielder, first baseman and slugger that the Cubs have discussed in trade talks in the past. He lost playing time to the emergence of rookie champion Pete Alonso in 2019 and has underperformed since, being downgraded to Triple-A twice this year.

Reyes, 28, has just undergone shoulder surgery – his third major operation in five years – with a recovery schedule suggesting a return to competition in May.

His health is anything but a certainty — no matter how effective he might be — but he’s a former Baseball America fourth-rated prospect who was an All-Star closer to a Cardinals playoff team, with 29 saves in 2021 , last season he pitched.

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Christy J. Olson