2 reasons teams shouldn’t trade for the Cubs OF before the deadline

Cody Bellinger faces a decline in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA finally made the difficult decision to move on from the former NL MVP during this past offseason. Bellinger ended up signing with the Chicago Cubs and enjoyed a resurgence in 2023. However, is Bellinger really back?

There’s no doubt that Bellinger’s superficial numbers are intense. He is currently slashing .303/.359/.502 with a .861 OPS and nine home runs in 56 games played. If the Cubs sell, which they are expected to do, they will get a quality return for trading Bellinger. But the underlying data suggest that regression is a strong possibility.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at two reasons why teams shouldn’t trade for Cody Bellinger before the 2023 deadline.

Cody Bellinger’s dangerous hard-hit rate

Yes, Cody Bellinger has hit over .300 as of the publication of this story. This change is clearly benefiting him, as his hard-hit rate is the lowest he has been in his entire career.

bellinger currently owns 28.3 percent hard-hit rate, per Baseball Reference. Even during his down seasons in 2021 and 2022, he posted a hard-hitting percentage over 34 percent. However, it goes further than just how hard he is hitting the baseball.

Although Bellinger’s line drive percentage is slightly higher than his career average in 2023, his 25.9 percent fly ball rate is the third-lowest mark in his career. Sometimes players benefit from keeping the ball out of the air through swing adjustments, which is what is happening with Bellinger.

Teams need to ask themselves whether a player who is benefiting from shift restriction can maintain this much production with such low hard-hit and fly ball rates. It is possible, but there is some luck involved as well. And this leads us to our next point.

Bellinger’s BAbip

For those who may not know, BAbip, or Batting Average on Balls in Game, is a telling statistic. It is often used as a way to remain optimistic, even when talented players are struggling. If those players have a low BAbip, they can blame it on bad luck.

For Bellinger, exactly the opposite is currently happening.

Cody Bellinger’s 2023 BABIP of .333 is the highest mark of his career. Again, this is clearly a result of shift restriction. But relying solely on shift restrictions to save a player’s career is risky. At the moment, it’s still new and teams are learning to adjust. But the coaching staff, pitchers and defense will make the necessary adjustments. Once that happens, it will be interesting to see how Bellinger fares.

final thoughts

I’m not trying to argue that Cody Bellinger is a bad player or anything of that nature. He still has impressive potential and it’s nice to see him find his footing in Chicago. However, teams need to be weary before sending valuable potential capital for a player who has had a lot of luck in 2023.

If Bellinger continues to perform well and it becomes clear that there are no realistic adjustments to shift restriction down the road, perhaps we can overlook his low hard-hit rate and high BABIP. However, for now, this is a point of concern.

Some are saying that MVP level Cody Bellinger is back. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In 2019, his MVP season, he posted a 49 percent hard-hit rate and a 30.6 percent fly ball rate. It will be interesting to see how much interest Bellinger receives before the 2023 MLB trade deadline.

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